During the hustle that ends one year and begins another - holiday gatherings, decorating, celebratory dinners, and more - we may forget the basic things that keep our families and homes healthy and safe. Here are a few tips I hope you use.
1) Run your sponge through the dishwasher with a load every so often. Get rid of coliform, yeast and mold from food prep and cleaning.
2) Use a soap and water mixture to remove microorganisms from your counters (kitchen and bath). Disinfectant sprays don't kill virus like soap does.
3) Clean cutting boards with soap & water. If the surface is very pitted...it's time to get a new one.
4) Be sure your refrigerator is at 40 degrees F. Buy an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer to be sure.
5) Wash your hands with soap and water (hot isn't necessary) while humming the "Happy Birthday" song 2X. That will remove most bacteria and viruses. Don't forget under your fingernails! Know that antibacterial soap is a marketing tool more than a bonus and regular soap works best.
6) Be sure that you microwave uncooked food the correct length of time, then let it cool before eating. Follow the label directions and don't take a shortcut.
7) Leftovers have a simple rule 2 HOURS - 2 INCHES - 4 DAYS. That means that you should refrigerate or freeze leftovers with 2 hours of cooking, store food at 2" or less so it cools or freezes best, and if you don't use leftovers within 4 days, freeze or throw out. Stuffing and gravy are the exceptions and 2 days is their rule.
8) Allow your dishwasher to run through the heat-dry cycle with large loads, pots, and if members of your family are ill or at risk of infection (age, general health, etc.).
9) Ignore the 5 second rule. If food drops on the floor, toss it. A Clemson University study showed that food picks up bacteria immediately on contact...enough to make you sick.
10) For all aspects of food safety, visit the USDA web site link.