Here are some food safety tips that will help protect your family from foodborne illness:

*See also: Food Preparation Safety Tips

Keep your kitchen clean
Foodborne bacteria don’t just lurk on food-they are frequently transferred to surfaces throughout your kitchen. Keep your kitchen clean and sanitary by regularly wiping it down with a bleach water solution (around 20 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water). Research by food-science professor Paul Dawson shows that salmonella and other bacteria can survive up to four weeks on dry surfaces and transfer to food immediately upon contact: So if you’re not keeping your kitchen clean, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Beware of dented cans
Be cautious about dented cans of food, since the smallest puncture in them could allow bacteria in to contaminate the product: So inspect canned foods thoroughly and look for intact labels. If you’re worried, you might want to err on the safe side and toss them.

Check for recalled products
Sign up for free FDA and USDA alerts at www.recallsgovsothatyou.rein±ormed of any recalled food products.

Monitor your fridge & freezer
Bacteria begin to multiply and spread at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So chilling food inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Yet all refrigerators idle, and despite your settings or what it might say on the digital readout, during these times the temperature can climb above what is safe. It’s recommended that you purchase a refrigerator thermometer to check the temp during idle times, and to ensure that different parts of your fridge are cooling to the proper temperature. Here are some tips to help ensure your refrigerator doesn’t make you sick:

  • Avoid opening the door as much as possible, and definitely don’t sit there with it wide open for several minutes.
  • Check the different areas of your fridge to see which parts keep coldest (usually this is the bottom near the back, but not always), and keep the most spoilage-sensitive foods there.
  • Avoid placing perishable items in the door, which is the warmest part ofthe fridge.

Avoid opening your fridge during power outages
If you’re going on an extended trip, place a sealed plastic Ziplock bag full of ice cubes inside your freezer. If you return home to find a frozen blob, you’ll know that there was a power outage which caused the cubes to melt…which also means the food in your freezer thawed and is likely spoiled.

Avoid double-dipping
Double dipping is a routine practice, but it can spread bacteria. The extent of this depends on the viscosity of the food: runny salsa is a better conduit than a thick guacamole. To put things in perspective, double dipping is akin to sharing an affectionate kiss with someone. The same applies to shared drinks. The rim and liquid ofa single cup can have more than 10,000 bacteria.

Beware of raw sprouts
It’s recommended that you avoid giving children uncooked sprouts. The FDA advises that “children, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.” The problem resides in the way sprouts are harvested. In the field, bacteria of all sorts can contaminate the seeds used for sprouts. These aren’t washed, because doing so would cause them to sprout too early. They are then put into a sprouting system, which is warm and wet and also happens to be the perfect incubator for bacteria Even if only a few bacterial cells survive, they can multiply a thousand-fold during the sprouting process. As a result, sprouts are a common culprit of outbreaks in ecoli and other foodbome illness, so much so that many food safety experts refuse to eat them.

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