The Dangers of Cutting Corners in the Kitchen

Reviewed by Eleese Cunningham, RDN
cutting food with knife

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"Multitasking" is a term that may have started in the workplace, but it has made its way to the kitchen — where more and more Americans say their busy lives require them to juggle too many things at once while eating and preparing food. But while multitasking may be helpful in climbing the corporate ladder, when it comes to mealtime, multitasking shortcuts might lead to food poisoning.

Home cooks care for the kids and pets, watch television, wash dishes and talk on the phone while cooking. Since eliminating today's need to multitask can be virtually impossible, families need to incorporate proper home food safety habits into their daily routines in order to diminish the risk of food poisoning.

No matter how busy you are, from top to bottom, a clean kitchen is a main line of defense for your family and food poisoning. Be a smart multitasker: Eliminate the breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria.

  • Wash your hands often – front and back, between fingers, under fingernails – in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds (or two choruses of "Happy Birthday") before and after every step in preparing or eating foods. That includes your kitchen helpers, such as children.
  • Clean all work surfaces often to remove food particles and spills. Use hot, soapy water. Keep nonfood items – mail, newspapers, purses – off counters and away from food and utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food preparation.
  • Wash dishes and cookware in the dishwasher or in hot, soapy water, and always rinse them well. Remember that chipped plates and china can collect bacteria.
  • Change towels and dishcloths often and wash them in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Allow them to dry out between each use. If they are damp, they're the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Throw out dirty sponges or sterilize them by rinsing the sponge and microwaving it for about two minutes while still wet. Be careful, the sponge will be hot.
  • Pay close attention to the refrigerator and the freezer – shelves, sides and door – where foods are stored. Pack perishables in coolers while you clean or defrost your refrigerator or freezer. Splatters inside your microwave can also collect bacteria, so keep it clean.

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