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How-To Keep Your Kitchen Clean and Safe

The kitchen is such a familiar place that you might forget it can hide dangers that threaten the health of you and your family. While most think their kitchens are clean, polls show that people often ignore basic facts about germs and bacteria when handling and preparing food.

Wash Rinds: Most people think raw chicken is the riskiest food when it comes to foodborne illnesses, and chicken should be thoroughly washed. However, raw produce is the number one cause of food poisoning. While it’s common sense to wash apples, peppers, tomatoes, and other whole foods, melons and squash can also be a problem. The inedible rinds can be covered with bacteria that might spread to the flesh when the foods are cut up. That’s why the FDA recommends thoroughly washing all produce whether it’s organic or not. Produce should be dried with a clean cloth to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Keep Two Cutting Boards: While meat and veggies taste great together, they should be prepared separately. Use a glass or hard plastic cutting board for chopping meat—bacteria can hide in the rough surfaces of wood cutting boards. Use a separate board—and a clean knife—for cutting vegetables. That way, your salad won’t be tainted by bacteria migrating from the meat.

Take a Temperature Reading: Two-thirds of Americans have never used a food thermometer except for the pop-up kind that comes with the Thanksgiving turkey. But a meat thermometer is the best way to tell if your roast, steak, ham, or lamb chops are cooked to 145°F, hot enough to kill harmful bacteria like salmonella. The internal temperature of ground beef needs to be 160°F and poultry should reach 165°F.

Keep Sponges Clean: Researchers have discovered that three-quarters of all kitchen sponges and counter cloths were loaded with potentially harmful bacteria. You can clean a sponge by placing it on a dish in the microwave and zapping it for one minute on medium. Or, simply throw your sponges in the dishwasher with the rest of the dishes.

Wash Those Hands: Just like mom always said, dirty hands spread germs. While most people remember that lesson, only half of those polled said they washed their hands for a 20 full seconds before cooking. (That’s how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times.) Use soap and water on hands before and after food preparation.

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