As National Public Health Week approaches and we work to become the “healthiest nation in one generation,” we can all practice simple food safety steps to prevent illness. For starters, following the four steps of food safety anytime we handle, prepare or eat foods can help.
• Clean: Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with
soap and warm water before cooking. Always
wash hands for 20 seconds before handling foods.
• Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat and poultry and ready to eat foods.
• Cook: Confirm meat and poultry are done — Don’t just guess! — by using a food thermometer to verify they have reached a safe internal temperature.
• Chill: Chill foods promptly if you don’t plan to consume them immediately after cooking. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two
How can we combine these food safety steps with other healthy activities? Maybe you have made a goal to eat more fruit, vegetables and lean meats. Great! But don’t forget to wash those fruits and vegetables before peeling or eating. On the other hand, don’t wash raw meat and poultry before cooking, as washing can cause cross-contamination of bacteria through your kitchen.
If you are trying to save money and eat healthy by preparing multiple meals in advance of your work week, remember that once foods are cooked, they need to be refrigerated within two hours, or within one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or above.
The best way to quickly cool foods is to place them in small shallow containers and then into the refrigerator. Leftovers in your refrigerator are good for three to four days. When reheating, make sure the food reaches 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer for maximum safety. If you don’t use those leftovers in three to four days, you should freeze or dispose of them.
Foods in the freezer should be consumed within two to three months if they contain meat, and within one to two months if they don’t contain meat. These freezer storage times are for best quality, and frozen foods are safe indefinitely.
Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.
Have a healthy National Public Health Week!