By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , June 18, 2009 - 4:36am
A few weeks ago I blogged about my obsession with 100-calorie cookies . But what I didn’t tell you then is that I can never wait for the baked cookies to come out of the oven—I almost always taste the dough.
OK, so I don’t think that the Emily Posts of the world care about me eating raw cookie dough straight out of the mixing bowl, but anyone who knows anything about food safety might. Although nothing you can do will ever guarantee 100 percent protection against foodborne illness, there are some simple precautions that help to reduce your risk. (Ahem, like not eating raw cookie dough.) (Get the basics of food safety here. )
How many of those simple precautions  do you follow at home? Do you eat raw cookie dough? Do you reheat your leftovers to a high enough temperature? How long do you leave food out on the counter?
1. Use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep your food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F).
Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria. Ensuring that your refrigerator temperature stays at 40°F or colder is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of foodborne illness. You can buy a “refrigerator/freezer thermometer” at appliance stories, home centers (e.g., Home Depot) and kitchen stores—including online ones, such as cooking.com.
2. Defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter for longer than 2 hours because, while the center of the food may remain frozen, the outer surface may enter the Danger Zone, the range of temperatures between 40° and 140°F, in which bacteria multiply rapidly. If you’re short on time, use the microwave—or you can thaw meat and poultry in airtight packaging in cold water. Change the water every half hour (so it stays cold) and use the thawed food immediately.
3. Always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.
Bacteria from uncooked meat, poultry and fish can contaminate cooked foods and fresh produce. An important way to reduce this risk is to use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.