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Food Safety Expert: Douglas Powell, Ph.D.

Trained in molecular biology and once employed as a journalist, Douglas Powell is an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. Powell’s research focuses on the science, society and risk analysis of food safety. He seeks innovative ways for retail employees and consumers to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, and advocates for a farm-to-fork food safety system.

Powell hosts donteatpoop.com and publishes two electronic newsletters: bites.com and barfblog.com. A native of Brantford, Ontario, Doug is passionate about food, has five daughters and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey.

What is the single most important thing that can be done (by food growers, producers, government, consumers – any, or all of the above) to improve food safety in the United States?

D.P.: Be the bug. Think about where dangerous bugs originate and how best to control them, whether it's dangerous E. coli in a spinach field, Salmonella carried by birds or rodents that contaminate peanuts after they've been roasted, or the pathogens on hands that can be transferred to fresh foods at a restaurant.

10 Commandments of Food Safety

Doug Powell tells us whether he abides by the following food safety recommendations.

1. I use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep my food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F).
D.P.: Fridges fluctuate and thermometers are the only way to acquire accurate data.

2. I always defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter.
D.P.: I defrost on the counter. I just don’t leave it there very long. Click here for my related blog post.

3. I always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.
D.P.: No, but I clean cutting boards thoroughly.

4. I always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure.
D.P.: Yes. Color is a lousy indicator. I feel naked without a thermometer. Click here for my related blog post.

5. I avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days.
D.P.: Yup. Not worth the risk, especially for pregnant women, and my wife had a baby six months ago.

6. I never eat “runny” eggs or foods, such as cookie dough, that contain raw eggs.
D.P.: Nope.

7. I always wash my hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs.
D.P.: Nope. 20 seconds is too long and water temperature doesn’t matter; but I do wash my hands routinely.

8. I always heat leftover foods to 165ºF.
D.P.: Nope. 140ºF is sufficient if it has already been cooked.

9. I never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F).
D.P. did not offer a response.

10. Whenever there’s a food recall, I check products stored at home to make sure they are safe.
D.P.: Sure.



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