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Tips for a Safe and Healthy Kitchen

From food storage to sanitizing surfaces, these tips will help you keep your kitchen a safe place.

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Top 10 Tips

1. Wash hands thoroughly before preparing food. Lather with soap and water for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing one chorus of Row, Row, Row Your Boat). Rinse well and dry with a clean towel.

2. Hot foods should be at a temperature greater than 60C/140F. Once hot food is served, all uneaten food should not be left to sit out. Instead it should be placed in proper storage containers in the fridge.

3. Invest in a fridge thermometer to ensure your fridge is at the right temperature. Cold foods should be kept below 4C/39F.

4. Be careful of how food is stored in the fridge. Meats should always be placed on the bottom shelves or in meat drawers in case of leakage and vegetables should be kept above. All open or partially consumed foods should be packaged in airtight plastic storage containers.

5. All dry goods need to be stored off the floor and sealed properly to prevent entry of rodents, insects or other extraneous matter.

6. Do not over-pack the refrigerator or freezer. This restricts proper air flow and prevents the appliances from functioning efficiently.

7. Prevent cross-contamination when preparing food. Use one colored cutting board for raw meats and a different colored cutting board for vegetables or any ready-to-eat foods.

8. When cleaning surfaces, wash first with soap and water then sanitize with a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water (two drops per cup).

9. Replace dishcloths and disinfect sponges on a daily basis. Sponges can be disinfected by placing them in a bleach-and-water solution for five to ten minutes and then air drying or by putting them in the microwave for one minute. This will kill all unwanted mold and bacteria.

10. After washing, all utensils and dishware should be air dried in order to prevent cross-contamination from towels.

Kitchen Statistics

  • Raw food is often contaminated with germs or parasites, depending on the type of food and its origin. Certain groups of food are particularly susceptible (milk, minced meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, for example). Room temperature encourages the growth of existing germs, and hot weather increases the risk.

  • Pre-packed food, canned goods and deep-frozen products must carry a date of expiration. A limit can also be given for how long food may be consumed after the pack has been opened. When making your purchase, note the "sell-by" and the "best before" dates, periodically check the food in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer.

  • It is a good idea to keep food in the refrigerator or in the freezer, but only if the recommended temperatures are observed. In refrigerators or freezers that are overstocked (e.g., in preparation for parties) or severely iced up, the temperature may rise. Periodically check the refrigerator (max. 4C/39F) and freezer temperatures (at least -18C/-4F) with a thermometer. Defrost them if they are iced up.

  • Deep-frozen products offer the advantage of being able to keep food for a relatively long period. Problems can occur, however, when they are thawed either intentionally or unintentionally. Once food has thawed, do not refreeze it even after it has been cooked. To thaw deep-frozen products, place them in a vessel in the refrigerator or in the microwave oven to prevent the escape of liquid from the thawing process onto other food, shelves, work surfaces or equipment.

  • If food is not properly stored or is stored for too long (even in the refrigerator), it may perish. This not only affects the smell, taste and nutrient content of the food; but signs of decay, cloudiness, color change, viscidity, fermentation or formation of mold (except for the blue mold that occurs on cheese and salami) indicates the presence of dangerous germs and toxic substances. Immediately throw away any food that has perished. Do not simply cut off the mold because the toxic spores of the mold spread through the food invisibly. Germs from raw food can be transferred to cooked meals during storage and processing.

  • Keep cooked meals covered during storage. Store and prepare raw and cooked food separately. Clean any work surfaces and utensils used in the processing of susceptible food immediately after use. Wash your hands each time.

  • Inadequate heating in the preparation of food prevents the germs from being killed. When cooking raw food, ensure that the inner temperature reaches at least 70C/158F. Completely thaw deep-frozen products, so that they can be sufficiently cooked on the inside as well. Also, when using leftovers, make sure you heat them to 70C/158F. Use special thermometers if necessary.

  • When food has been prepared, cold dishes, warm meals and leftovers form an ideal breeding ground for the proliferation of microorganisms. Consume any meals prepared as soon as possible. Keep cold dishes in the refrigerator at max. 4C/39F until consumption, and heat cooked meals to at least 60C/140F.

  • Immediately put any leftovers in the refrigerator at max. 4C/39F in flat containers and consume as soon as possible.

  • With their combination of dirt and humidity, dishcloths, sponges, tea towels, brushes and other dishwashing utensils provide ideal conditions for microorganisms to proliferate. Change cloths and cleaning utensils frequently or wash them in boiling water. Where possible, use disposable household tissue.

  • Food residues, peelings, dust or dirt are often found under work surfaces, furniture, and equipment, providing a breeding ground not only for microorganisms, but also for insects and other parasites.

  • Keep the kitchen and cellar storage rooms clean. Separate waste (recyclable materials, waste for composting, etc.) and dispose of it as soon as possible to prevent infestations of insects.

  • Many households keep pets. These can secrete germs or carry germs in their fur or feathers. No matter how domesticated, pets do not belong in the kitchen and/or storage rooms.

  • Cleanliness is the first priority. Pay attention to personal hygiene, hygiene in handling food and cleanliness when in the kitchen.

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