Wherever food is handled, there’s the potential for contamination. We often think of food contamination as a problem only restaurants and grocery stores face. The reality, however, is that all of us could face this issue at home too.
Here are some key steps to lowering the chances of food contamination:
1. Wash fruits and vegetables before consumption
Before eating any fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them thoroughly. You should still wash them even if you’re planning on peeling them. Bacteria can easily be transferred from the peel when you're cutting fruits or chopping vegetables. It’s important to use clean running water to ensure food is washed safely.
2. Reheat food safely
Be sure to read all instructions on how to store and reheat leftovers. Keep hot cooked food at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you need to reheat cooked food, reheat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Consume leftovers as soon as possible. If you’re in doubt about whether they are still good enough to eat, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw them away.
3. Clean your kitchen surfaces
Wipe your kitchen surface with hot, soapy water. Alternatively, you could use an all-purpose cleaner with added disinfectant. Dry the surface with paper towels or a clean cloth.
4. Designate knives and cutting boards
Cross-contamination is something to avoid at all costs. A great way to do this is by designating particular knives and chopping boards for raw food. Also, make sure to wash any knives and cutting boards you recently used before touching anything else in your kitchen.
5. Wash your hands thoroughly
This one is easy to botch. The idea of washing our hands is so overstated and we sometimes take it too casually. Read more about the science behind effective hand washing here.
If other people have consumed the same food that made you sick, be sure to tell them. If you suspect your food was contaminated when you bought it from a store or restaurant, certainly let them know. If necessary, inform your local health department too. In doing so, you could be preventing many other people from becoming ill.
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