Keeping our food safe

by Holly McDonald

What is food Safety?

Food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses. Foodborne illness continues to be an urgent issue across the United States. In fact, the CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 out of 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. However by being educated and aware of these illnesses we can prevent them from happening altogether!

There are four basic steps that have been assigned to food safety- Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. each one plays an important role in ensuring that we stay safe and healthy when cooking and eating foods.

Keep it Clean!


By starting off your cooking experience with clean hands and a clean kitchen you are starting in a good position to avoid any spread of bacteria. Wash hand with hot soap water for around 20 seconds, make sure to wash wrist and under nails as well. Try not to touch, your hair, face, or sneeze after you have washed your hand. if this does occur please re-wash hands.

If you are sick you should not participate in cooking at all. Especially if contagious with a fever. If you have experienced vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing in the past day you should not participate either. Germs easily can spread through the cooking process so by making sure that you are clean and healthy yourself, you have one less thing to worry about.

Your kitchen and utensils

Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter top. So make sure that your kitchen is completely clean and safe to cook in. you can use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils. The kitchen sink can also be dirtier than your floor so I suggest cleaning the sink before you begin food preparation.

You should also be aware of the cleanness of the kitchen through out your cooking process. Do not continue to use the same utensils and equipment with different ingredients or at least fully clean them before using them again. It can lead to cross contamination of bacteria if you do not.

Your Ingrediants

You should be using as fresh as possible ingredients, make sure nothing is paste the expiration date, especially when it come to dairy products. once you have all ingredients wash and clean your produce- fruits and vegetables. Rinse produce under warm running water with out soap, detergent, bleach, or commercial produce washes. Scrub firmer produce with a clean produce brush. then dry with a paper towel or clean cloth.

You should never wash meats, poultry's or eggs. Washing raw meat and poultry can help bacteria spread, because their juices can easily splash onto and contaminate your sink and countertops. Instead just remove from package and use as quickly as possible, the less you handle these types of items the better off you are when it comes to avoiding spreading illnesses.

Separate it well

Placing ready-to-eat food on a surface that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs can spread bacteria and make you sick. But stopping cross-contamination is simple. Have different cutting boards for meats and produce. Use different utensils for each and don't place them on the same plates either. If you are reusing something, fully wash it clean before use.

After food preparation is complete continue to keep certain foods separated from one another. Bacteria can still spread in your fridge so place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags. Otherwise you are at high risk of cross contamination of illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods.

How Does Cross-Contamination Happen?

time to cook


Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color and texture alone won’t tell you whether your food is done. Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the “Danger Zone” between 40˚ and 140˚ Fahrenheit, so make sure that your food is being made at the temperature from the given recipe. Raw foods like Meat and Poultry should always be over 140 when cooking and even once the meal is completed.

To check that your food has reached a safe temperate to eat it at, use a food thermometer. When you think your food is done, place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat, or gristle. Check you foods temp with the recommended one to make sure it is safe to consume.

Cool down

Once you are done with your prepared meal, storing it at the right temperature is the nextstep to make sure it will not cause illness. Cold temperatures slow the growth of illness causing bacteria. So it’s important to chill food promptly and properly. To properly chill food and slow bacteria growth, cold air must be allowed to circulate in your fridge. For this reason, it’s important not to over-stuff your fridge.Your fridge should be between 40 ˚F and 32 ˚F.

You should never thaw food out on the counter. Instead thaw any frozen food in the refrigerator, cold water, or a microwave. You should also always marinate any foods in the fridge compared to leaving it out. Many different bacteria thrive at room temperature so be aware of the temperature you are keeping certain foods at.

Food poisoning

Bad Bacteria in our food

Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. The symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary, depending on which bacteria or virus has contaminated the food. Salmonella, Norovirus, E.coli, and Listeria are some of the most common bacteria and viruses that cause the most sickness in the United States.

When you ingest enough of one of these, you will almost immediately start showing symptoms of poisoning. Symptoms are often diarrhea, vomiting, fever, aches. If not treated properly, these can result in hospitalization or death. If you are showing symptoms you should immediately seek medical assistants to ensure you have a proper recovery.

Long term effects that can occur

One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. That’s about 48 million people. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. For some, however, the effects can be devastating and even deadly. Kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage and death are the most common long term effects that can occur.

When infected with E.Coli kidney failure, especially in children may happen. A small number of persons with Salmonella infection develop pain in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. A Listeria infection can lead to meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. And in the United States, approximately 3,000 people die each year of illnesses associated with food poisoning.

Be aware and informed

By knowing how to avoid things such as cross-contamination and spread of bacteria in your kitchen and while cooking you will be in a better position to start off. You should also just know things like symptoms of food poisoning, correct temperate to fully cook food at, and how to properly clean produce and utensils. By having common knowledge on food safety you can easily prevent serious consequences.

The Federal Food Safety Information website and many others can assist you with further questions, information, or help when it comes to keeping food safe. Our bodies need healthy, nutritious, and most importantly safe food for our bodies to run the best it can. By keeping our food safe, we are keeping our bodies, communities, and families safe!