September is a time when many families are gearing up to go back to school. Coincidentally, it’s also National Food Safety Education Month – a perfect time to refresh our food safety knowledge and remind busy families of some important tips to fight foodborne illness in the school year ahead.
From top to bottom, a clean kitchen is a major line of defense between your family and the spread of the cold, flu and food poisoning. Food safety is especially important if there are any children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, adults over 65 years of age or anyone with medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, living in your household.
One of the four crucial steps in helping to limit the spread of foodborne illness is cleaning. Keep the following tips in mind before, during and after food preparation:
- Everyone preparing or eating foods should wash their hands often; front and back, between fingers, under fingernails – in clean soapy water for at least 20 seconds (or two choruses of “Happy Birthday”). This includes kitchen helpers, such as children.
- Use hot, soapy water to wash counters carefully before and after food preparation to remove food particles and spills. Remember to clean other items commonly touched during cooking, such as cabinet knobs and refrigerator handles, too.
- Prevent the spread of bacteria by keeping nonfood items, such as mail, newspapers, purses and reusable tote bags, off counters and away from food and utensils.
- Wash dishes, cutting boards and cookware in the dishwasher or in hot, soapy water, and always rinse them well. Remember that chipped plates and china can collect bacteria.
- Replace old cutting boards that are excessively worn with cracks, crevices and knife scars.
- Change towels and dishcloths often and wash them in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Don’t leave damp, dirty towels sitting around – they’re the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Replace dirty sponges or wash them in a bleach-water solution.
- Remember to clean up spills on appliances. Wash appliances with hot, soapy water. Pay close attention to the refrigerator and the freezer – including the shelves, sides and door where foods are stored. Pack perishables in coolers with a refrigerator thermometer while you clean or defrost your refrigerator or freezer, to ensure your foods stay at the proper temperature 40°F or below.
- Clean your microwave regularly because splatters can also collect bacteria.
By keeping food safety in mind this season, you can help get your family off to a healthy start!