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9 Food Safety Mistakes You’re Making

While food safety isn't always at the forefront of our minds when entering the kitchen, foodborne illness can occur if it's not paid close attention to. Here are some common food safety mistakes people often make at home and simple solutions.

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Not cleaning or replacing your sponge often enough

 

Make sure to clean your sponge every day by microwaving it for one minute, running it in the dishwasher on the dry cycle, or by soaking it in a bleach solution for one minute. Replace it frequently, ideally once per week, as after as little as two to three uses sponges can start harboring bacteria that can lead to food poisoning—sponges are just one of the places germs hide in your home. Also, if your sponge smells, throw it out.

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Rinsing your poultry

Rinsing poultry such as chicken, turkey, and duck is customary in most households but has been found to not actually remove any of the harmful bacteria that can make us sick and the splashing water can actually spread that bacteria around your kitchen. The only way to eradicate this bacteria is by cooking your poultry to the proper temperature (more on this in a later slide). Try making this delicious bruschetta chicken recipe with your newfound knowledge on poultry safety!

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Choosing the wrong cutting board

Make sure to choose the right cutting board for the food that you’re preparing. Wood cutting boards are great for produce while plastic cutting boards are best for meat, poultry, and fish as bacteria can more easily set into the crevices of a wooden cutting board.

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Forgetting about your dishcloths

 

Dishcloths can be an easily forgotten culprit for spreading bacteria around the kitchen. From collecting dish water to drying hands, dishcloths are the perfect medium for accumulating potentially harmful bacteria that could make you sick. Make sure to wash your dish rags on a regular basis and consider using separate dishcloths for wiping your hands and drying dishes.

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Keeping leftovers too long

While leftovers can be great for lunches or a quick snack in the days following a delicious meal, they can also be quick to harvest bacteria that can cause food poisoning and are oftentimes kept for too long in the fridge. You want to make sure not to eat leftovers that are older than three to four days. Learn the best ways to store every type of leftover food.

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Not checking your meat temperature

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from foodborne illness is to make sure you’re cooking your meat, poultry, fish, and leftovers to the correct temperature. All poultry and leftovers should be cooked to 165ºF and pork, meat and fish to 145ºF. Have a meat thermometer on-hand in the kitchen to make checking temperatures a breeze—but don’t forget, you need to know how to clean your meat thermometer properly, too!

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Haphazard snacking at parties

Whether you’re hosting or attending a party, it’s important to pay attention to food safety. Foods that should be stored in the fridge or served hot should not be eaten if they’ve been sitting out at room temperature for two hours or more. One easy way to work around this is to keep your party foods on ice or hot plates.

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Thawing food on the counter

As with keeping foods out at parties for more than two hours at room temperature is a risk for bacterial growth, so is thawing food. While a frozen turkey still may be frozen in the center after sitting on the counter for two hours, the edges of the bird will be in the “danger zone” of any temperature between 40 and 140 degrees, ideal for bacterial growth. The best methods for thawing are in the refrigerator, in cold water that is changed every 30 minutes or in the microwave.

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Forgetting about the freezer

Many foods aren’t meant to stay in the freezer indefinitely. Some will be good in there for up to a year but some for only a month. Hot dogs, lunch meat, and other smoked meats like bacon and sausage should only be in the freezer for two months maximum, while ground meat and soups are best if used after three months. Cuts of meat, poultry, and fish can last up to a year while leftovers should be used within six months. Learn how long most types of food can stay in the freezer.

Originally Published on Taste of Home

Christina Manian RDN, LD
Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, she has been involved with the nutrition departments of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Mass General Hospital. She completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy and currently practices clinical nutrition at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. While her background has largely been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces wellness nutrition as the backbone to optimum health.