September is National Food Safety Education Month – a perfect time to remind busy families that food safety is a year-round necessity.
From top to bottom, a clean kitchen is the main line of defense between your family and the spread of colds, flu and food poisoning. Before you prepare and enjoy foods in your kitchen, eliminate the breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria:
- Everyone in your family should wash their 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, reusable tote bags – off counters and away from food and utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food preparation, as well as items commonly touched such as cabinet knobs and the refrigerator handle.
- 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 have cracks, crevices and excessive knife scars.
- 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 wash them in a bleach-water solution.
- Clean spills right away on any appliance. Wash appliance with hot, soapy water. Pay close attention to the refrigerator and the freezer – 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.