Here are some basic guidelines for protecting your food from contamination:
Wash all fresh produce under cold clean running tap water for at least 10 seconds. This goes for every piece of produce, even ones where you don’t eat the skin such as an avocado. That avocado has been handled by dozens of people before it gets to your kitchen, and any pathogens on the outside will be carried right through the edible portion when you slice it.
Do not use any soap or special produce wash, the USDA recommends using only clean water.
Vertically organize your fridge. Sort foods in your fridge in the following order:
- Raw meat on the bottom
- Cooked meat and dairy next
- Fresh produce on top
Raw meat that is placed on the top shelve of a fridge can leak juices on the food below, resulting in something called cross contamination. Juices from meat often contain potentially harmful bacteria that are obliterated during the cooking process. When raw meat is cross contaminated with a vegetable that may be eaten raw, those bacteria will never get cooked away.
Watch those cutting boards! Speaking of cross contamination, this phenomenon is very likely to occur on a cutting board. Only use your cutting board for one food in between each washing, and never cut raw meat on the same board as cooked meat or fresh produce.
Wash, wash, wash your hands. You touch a number of fantastic things in a day, and some of those things are likely to contain bacteria that you don’t want to get in your food. Wash your hands with soap and warm water when you:
- First enter the kitchen
- After handling raw meat
- Before handling food that is ready to eat
For more information on handling food safely, check out the recommendations from our federal government here.