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Food Safety Basics

Be Smart—Keep Foods Apart

Food-borne illness can be spread when bacteria-infected uncooked foods come in contact with cooked or ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits and raw vegetables. Avoid cross-contamination by having at least two cutting boards, one for meat or fish and another for fresh produce.

 

Preparing to Cook

  • Defrost food in the refrigerator or the microwave to deter bacterial growth. Leaving it out at room temperature to defrost does the opposite.
  • Before you begin cooking, wash your hands with soap under warm water for at least 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing the chorus of “Jingle Bells”).
  • Rinse off fruits and vegetables under cool running water. But despite what your mother may have taught you, it’s not wise to rinse off poultry, meat or fish. The bacterial contaminants can only be killed at temperatures above 160°F, far hotter than the hot water in our homes. Rinsing only allows for random splashes—and thus cross-contamination of counters and cabinets.
  • Unwrap meats and fish in the sink and leave them in their container or paper until you’re ready to use them. Immediately throw out the container or paper; never reuse it.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by having at least two cutting boards, one for the meat or fish and another for fresh produce.
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