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National Food Safety Month: Avoiding the F Word

By Sara Butler

National Food Safety Month

What do you think The F Word chef Gordon Ramsay would say if he popped up for a surprise visit to your kitchen? After a few choice expletives, he’d probably find a few things in the deep recesses of your refrigerator that your fourth-grader can use in the science fair. But don’t feel bad -- I’m sure that pasta sauce was delicious when you made it … in March.

National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 to educate people about food safety. You may be thinking that you don’t work in a commercial kitchen, so why bother? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 6 people will become sick from foodborne illness this year. Why not learn what you can do each day to try to avoid being part of that queasy statistic?

At The Joint Chiropractic, we care about you as a whole person -- a whole person without food poisoning. So here are a few tips you can take away from National Food Safety Month in September that you can use to celebrate all year long!

Just Clean It

The task is clear: celebrity chef Ramsay is coming over for dinner; what do you do? You channel your inner little orphan Annie and make that kitchen gleam like the top of the Chrysler Building. Your kitchen deserves a deep clean, so take the time to check that off your to-do list. Remember, your kitchen harbors a ton of potentially dangerous bacteria -- more than any other room in your home (yes, even the bathroom). So, try to keep your kitchen as germ-free as possible by:

  • Periodically running your dishwasher empty with vinegar or baking soda added
  • Dust the top of the cabinets, corners, and ceiling
  • Clean out the refrigerator, vacuum the coils, and clean under it
  • Wipe down your small appliances
  • Clean out kitchen cabinets and drawers
  • Wash down the countertops with a cleaning solution
  • Clean the garbage disposal with baking soda, lemon, and warm water
  • Wash kitchen towels often and avoid using sponges in the sink
  • Sweep and mop the floors

When you're done, reward yourself with a nice dinner that won’t make you sick.

Know How to Handle Food

Food safety isn’t just accomplished in your kitchen. It starts when you’re shopping for your groceries, continues while preparing food, and ends with how you store it.

When shopping, you should:

  • Gather the perishable foods in your cart last
  • Take your purchases home directly to the refrigerator
  • Don’t buy things you won’t use soon (or by their use-by date)
  • Wipe off the handles and seat of the cart; many stores provide free disinfecting wipes

Once you get home:

  • Put items away in the refrigerator and freezer immediately
  • Freeze any meat, poultry, and fish you won’t use within a few days
  • Keep any raw meat in a shallow pan as not to let it drip on other food

While preparing food:

  • Sanitize your cooking surfaces often
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after cooking
  • Keep raw meat, eggs, or seafood away from ready-to-eat foods
  • Wash cutting boards and counters after cutting raw meat or poultry
  • Don’t place cooked food on a plate that had raw meat on it
  • Cook meat to proper temperatures using a meat thermometer

Keep in mind that cooking meat to the proper temperature is incredibly important. The ideal temperature for meat to reach so you know it’s safe to eat differs:

  • Ground beef - 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Poultry - 165 degrees
  • Beef, veal, and lamb - 145 degrees
  • Pork - 145 degrees
  • Fish - Should be opaque and flake easily with a fork

When you store leftovers, you should:

  • Make sure it’s cool before putting it in the refrigerator
  • Don’t keep leftovers for longer than two to three days

Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Food safety isn’t about simply being a good cook and it’s not about how much you can yell in the kitchen. It’s about understanding how you can prepare and keep food safely. You may not be a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen or an owner of a quaint little bistro that needs rescuing by a prickly, foul-mouthed British chef, but learning how to keep you and your family healthy and safe is one way you can honor National Food Safety Month (and Gordon Ramsay) all year long.

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