Ever leave a barbecue and not feel so great the next day? Many people think they have caught a “summer stomach bug” when in reality they ate something that wasn’t cooked or cleaned properly. Let’s get ready for BBQ season and avoid all foodborne illnesses! Here’s how to properly prep your kitchen or grill.
Before you fire up the grill, let’s review safe food storage, handling, and preparation to help you protect yourself, your families, and your guests from foodborne illnesses.
Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill
Meet the Be Food Safe campaign. This initiative was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Partnership for Food Safety Education, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to raise awareness of the importance of safe food handling in American households. The campaign recommends just four simple steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.
Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Utensils
- Wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash between your fingers and fingernails as well.
- Use gloves to handle food if you have a cut or infection.
- Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item, especially after using them for cutting raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, launder them often in the hot cycle. Put sponges in the microwave for sixty seconds or more to kill bacteria
Maintaining cutting boards: If not properly maintained, cutting boards can harbor harmful bacteria. Cutting boards with nonporous surfaces, such as plastic, marble, glass, or pyro-ceramic, are easier to clean and can hold on to fewer bacteria. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends consumers use wood or a nonporous surface for cutting raw meat and poultry.
Which foods should you clean before eating?
MEAT: DO NOT WASH
Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is NOT recommended by the FDA, USDA, and food safety experts. When meat is washed, water may splash harmful bacteria present on the raw meat spreading them to surrounding surfaces, including the clothes of the person washing the meat. Since cooking meat to the appropriate temperature kills disease-causing bacteria, washing meats prior to cooking is not necessary.
EGGS: DO NOT WASH
Eggs contain a natural coating that prevents bacteria from permeating the shell. And during commercial egg production, eggs are washed and sprayed with edible mineral oil to protect them from bacterial contamination. Washing eggs at home will remove these protective coatings and makes the eggs more susceptible to contamination.
FRUITS & VEGGIES: WASH
Raw fruits and vegetables can carry harmful bacteria, be sure to wash them under running tap water to remove any lingering dirt. When preparing fruits and vegetables, remove any damaged or bruised areas. These are prime spots for bacteria to thrive. In some cases, like with berries, it is best to not wash the produce until you are ready to eat them so they so they stay fresh.
Cook: Use a thermometer— even on your hamburger on the grill! Cooking food to a high enough temperature destroys harmful bacteria. To make sure food is heated to the appropriate internal temperature, the use of a food thermometer is highly recommended. You cannot see, smell, or taste bacteria that cause foodborne illness so it is imperative that you use a thermometer to determine when food is safe to eat.
Chill: Refrigeration is essential. The “danger zone,” where bacteria grow most rapidly, is the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140°F. Within this temperature range, bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes. Keeping your food out of the “danger zone” is imperative to food safety in the kitchen.
Storage: USDA has developed guidelines recommending safe time-limits for keeping refrigerated foods from becoming dangerous to eat. (Maximum freezing times are recommended for quality purposes only.)
For additional information on safely shopping for food, transporting food and serving food, check out the USDA’s Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook.
The Bottom Line:
Food safety practices to reduce harmful bacteria are necessary at every point in the supply chain. Properly handling food in the kitchen can significantly reduce your chances of becoming sick from consuming harmful bacteria.