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By Nancy Gossard
Wellness Editor 

Know These Food Safety Basics


Last updated 3/7/2019 at 6:30pm

There are some basics that are good for everyone to know and follow. Getting sick unnecessarily isn't worth the risk.

Food fight trivia: Some of us growing up followed the 5-second rule for food that was dropped on the floor. That was the belief that food that had only been on the floor for five seconds was safe to eat.

The Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that the longer the food was in contact with a germy surface, the more contaminated it became. Anything that fell on a contaminated surface itself became contaminated, no matter how long it was left there.

The CDC says germ-laden surfaces are one of the leading causes of the transfer of foodborne illnesses. The CDC estimates in the United States that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year.

Food safety is important and something for which we should all be aware.

From the CDC, the big four basics of food safety are:

Clean-Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate-Don't cross-contaminate.

Cook-Cook to proper temperatures, checking with a food thermometer.

Chill-Refrigerate promptly.


Wash your hands before you start, any time they could be contaminated, and after you finish. I find having a box of disposable gloves helps me feel safer in the kitchen. I can change them as needed without worrying about spreading germs. I also keep a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the kitchen. It kills germs without leaving anything toxic to worry about ingesting. I also keep a container of clean kitchen cloths to use. I don't rinse and use again. I use once and put in the laundry. I sometimes use paper towels, too.


The USDA recommends you keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water. Soap is really all you need to kill germs.

PBS reported in 2016 that, "Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a statement. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term." The FDA's report also cautions that widespread antiseptic use could be harmful over time, allowing bacteria to become more resistant.


The USDA recommends cooking all meat to at least 145 degrees and allowing it to rest three minutes before cutting, poultry 165. Rare, as many people eat beef and lamb is only 120 degrees, unsafe.

There are many inexpensive instant thermometers on the market you can use to be sure your food is the right temp. There are probes you can leave in your meat while it cooks that will beep and tell you when the perfect temperature is reached. Some thermometers even have a food guide printed on them. If you need a cooking chart, most cookbooks will have one or they are easy to find online.


Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F). Many places have insulated reusable shopping bags. I find these a must living here in Central Florida. I put my food in the bags in my cart as I shop to keep them cold.

Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below. Even if you have a digital display, it is good to check in different areas of your refrigerator to see if the temperature is correct in all spots.


At least once a week, throw out refrigerated foods that should no longer be eaten.

Cooked leftovers should be discarded after 4 days; raw poultry and ground meats, 1 to 2 days.

Wipe up spills immediately and clean countertops and cutting boards often.

Clean both the inside and the outside of appliances.

Specific Populations are at increased risk of Foodborne Illness

Women who are pregnant and their unborn children, young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible than the general population to the effects of foodborne illnesses such as listeriosis and salmonellosis.

Contracting a foodborne illness for these people can be severe or even fatal. They should only eat foods that have been cooked to the recommended safe minimum temperatures. They also should not consume unpasteurized juice or milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk, like some soft cheeses (e.g., Feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert cheeses, blue-veined cheeses, and Panela).

They should reheat deli meats and hot dogs to steaming hot to kill Listeria, the bacteria that causes listeriosis, and not eat raw sprouts, which also can carry harmful bacteria.


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