March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Reduce food poisoning risk with four easy steps.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans outline four basic food safety principles: CLEAN, SEPARATE, CHILL and COOK. These principles directly align with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety program's four simple tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
CLEAN - Wash Hands Often
Coupled with the importance of hand washing, the Dietary Guidelines reminds consumers to thoroughly wash all kitchen surfaces, including appliances, reusable grocery bags, and all produce (even if you plan to peel and cut before eating). For example, the insides of microwaves often become soiled with food, allowing bacteria to grow. By washing both the inside and outside, including handles and buttons, food poisoning may be prevented.
Proper hand washing may eliminate a large percentage of food poisoning cases and significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu.
- Wash hands before, during and after meal preparation, after using the bathroom, after changing diapers and after handling pets.
- Wash hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Don't forget to keep surfaces clean, including shelves, counter tops, tables, refrigerators and freezers.
SEPARATE - Keep Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate from Raw Meat Poultry, Seafood and Eggs
When juices from raw meats or germs from unclean objects accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods such as fruits or salads, cross-contamination occurs.
- Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Use two cuttings boards: one strictly for raw meat, poultry and seafood; the other for ready-to-eat foods like breads and vegetables.
- Wash cutting boards thoroughly in hot soapy water after each use or place in dishwasher. Use a bleach solution (i.e. one tablespoon bleach in one quart water) or other sanitizing solution and rinse with clean water.
- Discard old cutting boards that have cracks, crevices and excessive knife scars.
CHILL - Refrigerate Promptly to 40 Degrees Fahrenheit or Below
The Home Food Safety program reminds consumers to refrigerate foods promptly and at a proper temperature to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent food poisoning.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40°F and freezer is at or below 0°F.
- Keep a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator and check it regularly.
- Refrigerate perishable food as soon as you get home from the store.
- Refrigerate all leftover foods from a meal within two hours. When outdoors and the temperature is 90°F or warmer, that time is reduced to one hour.
- Store foods in small, shallow containers (two inches deep or less).
- Use or discard opened packages of luncheon meats or spreads within three to five days. Consume by the "use-by" date on the package.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave right before cooking.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
COOK - Cook to Proper Temperatures
Fish, seafood, meat, poultry and egg dishes should be cooked to the recommended safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria.
- Always use a food thermometer to check the doneness of meat, poultry, seafood and dishes containing eggs.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F. Older adults should reheat all deli-style meats.
- Boil a meat marinade for several minutes if you plan to re-use it.
- Use the following quick internal temperature guide:
- Beef, veal, lamb 145°F
- Pork – 160°F
- Poultry at least 165°F
- Ground beef, veal, lamb 160°F ; pork 145°F
- Ground poultry 165°F
- Finfish opaque flesh, flakes with a fork
- Shellfish opaque flesh throughout
- Eggs yolk and white are firm, not runny
- Casseroles, egg dishes 160°F
- Leftovers 165°F; boil liquids (soup, gravy)