I’m pretty proud of my children and this week I had a chance to visit my oldest daughter who is a senior at Franklin College and is the executive editor of her school newspaper. I read an article of hers on The Franklin about cross-contamination and food safety and it really got me to thinking about how important food safety is at home.
There are some basic things most home cooks know to do, such as washing your hands before you begin food prep and keeping food at certain temperatures. But, it is often the little things that can prevent food poisoning. There are so many tips I’ve picked up over the years, and I thought I’d share them with you here.
Some come from grandmothers, aunts, or my own mom. Some are from articles I’ve read. Some are even from a science museum display on germs in the house that I saw years ago at the Louisville Science Center. I hope these are helpful to you in keeping your family safe and nourished.
Tips for Food Safety at Home
- Treat chicken like it is poison. I’m serious here. You must sterilize ANYTHING that chicken or your chicken greasy hands touches. So, if you add salt and pepper to your chicken and then turn the chicken over to salt and pepper the other side, you need to wash your hands before you touch the salt and pepper shaker again. Do not touch ANYTHING after touching chicken until you wash your hands.
- Err on the side of refrigeration. Not sure if you should leave that potato salad out another 20 minutes? Then, don’t. Stick it back in the fridge. You can always pull it back out again for serving.
- Abide by expiration dates. I often laugh at my dad because he says the expiration dates are just a guideline and he doesn’t pay any attention to them. However, when I stop and think about it, you really should abide by those dates. If there is something bad for you growing in the can, it will only get worse with time.
- Use a bleach or white vinegar based cleaner to wipe down surfaces. Personally, I prefer white vinegar because it doesn’t stain clothing, but there are some bleach wipes on the market that work very well and are color safe. These substances help kill germs and keep things at bay that might contaminate your food.
In her article, my daughter touched on the subject of gluten allergies (or really any other type of allergy) and how food can become cross-contaminated easily. For example, if you cut bread with a knife and then use the knife to slice vegetables, someone with a severe gluten allergy may grow ill.
If you have someone in your home with an allergy, here are some things you can do:
- Have different cooking utensils and dinnerware for the person with the allergy. Don’t use the same knives, same pots and pans, or same dinnerware.
- Try to prepare food in a separate area. If at all possible, bake anything with gluten in a different area, even if you have to use a toaster oven or beg help from a neighbor.
- If you must use the same utensils, wash and sterilize them thoroughly before doing so.
Just by making a few minor changes, you can keep your family much safer from potential food borne illnesses. It won’t take up much of your time once you get used to the routine, but it will give you peace of mind that your family will be safe.