Dietitian Tips: Food Safety

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While healthy eating is important for a healthy lifestyle, proper food storage is just as critical. If you follow safe food handling and preparation practices, you will dramatically reduce your risk of contracting foodborne illness. The four basic principles to remember are: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Clean:

  • Always wash your hands before and after cooking a meal, and immediately after you handle any raw meat. Rub your hands together with soap and scrub all parts of the hand for 20 seconds before rinsing with warm water.
  • Make sure to sanitize cooking surfaces and countertops after cooking. Keep kitchen appliances clean as well.
  • Clean out your fridge once a week. Cooked leftovers should be discarded after four days, raw poultry and ground meats should not be left in the fridge more than three days.
  • Always wash your produce. Rinse fresh vegetables and fruits under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.

Separate:

  • Store raw food below ready-to-eat foods in the fridge and freezer to avoid any cross-contamination from raw food that might seep or leak liquids.
  • Separate raw and cooked foods when preparing and serving. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.

Cook and Chill:

  • Use a food thermometer when cooking to ensure food is safely cooked and held at a safe temperature until eaten.
  • Cook to safe internal temperatures. All raw beef, pork, lamb, steaks, chops, and roasts should reach a safe minimum temperature of 145°F. All raw ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Cook all poultry including ground chicken and ground turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Keep foods at safe temperatures. Hold cold foods at 40°F or below and keep hot foods at 140°F or above. Foods are no longer safe to eat if they have been in the danger zone between 40-140°F for more than 2 hours.

Most of these food safety tips are common sense and you probably already use them in your cooking routine. If any of my tips came as a surprise, let’s talk! There’s no such thing as a silly question in my office. Give me a call at 319-297-8637 or stop by my office in the Woodlands.

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