Are You Making These Common Food Safety Mistakes?

There are five common food safety kitchen mistakes, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Food safety expert and IFT spokesperson Christine Bruhn, PhD, CFS, and her team videotaped 120 consumers as they prepared salad and chicken at home. The tapes revealed that while many of the consumers felt confident about their food safety skills, they still made critical mistakes while preparing the items mistakes that could lead to foodborne illnesses.

1) Should you rinse or re-wash pre-washed and bagged lettuce a second time? No, because there is a risk that you will add bacteria to greens that were clean to start with. The biggest culprit for adding these bacteria is from sinks and cutting boards that havent been recently cleaned or sanitized. Their advice is to just open the bag of lettuce and put it in a bowl because any bacteria that could be eliminated by washing have already come off.

2) While we are on the topic of washing, you should never forget to wash your hands before you begin preparing a meal. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a paper towel - not a cloth towel - because the cloth towel can become contaminated and spread bacteria when it is used to wipe the counter or dry dishes.

3) Another washing mistake involves preparing chicken. The study revealed that many times the participants would wash the chicken before seasoning and cooking it, which is not the correct way to prepare it. When you place raw chicken under running water some of the bacteria on the surface of the chicken can end up in the sink. It can then be present in the sink later when dishes are washed and it can splatter as much as two feet and contaminate surfaces with dangerous salmonella. The advice not to wash your chickens is longstanding, according to an NPR report. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been cautioning against the practice for many years, and food safety experts widely agree it's a bad idea, because it raises the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria found on raw poultry all over your kitchen. Food safety researchers say cooking your bird until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees is the only thing you have to do to kill the bacteria found on raw birds.

4) The study also revealed that many refrigerators were not set at the proper temperature. They checked the temperature of each refrigerator and noticed that almost 15 percent of them were set too warm - at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and one was set as high as 60 degrees. Your refrigerator should register at 40 degrees F and the freezer should register at zero degrees F. Many refrigerator controls do not show the actual temperature but you can use an inexpensive, free standing appliance thermometer to monitor your fridges temperature and adjust the settings if necessary. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer and be sure to check them often.

5) Another great use for a thermometer is to test foods for doneness. Many of the participants did not cook the chicken to the proper temperature because they did not use a thermometer to make sure it was thoroughly cooked. Dont trust your eyes. It is not enough to see if the chicken is white inside and that there are no pink juices present. You need to use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

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