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Food Safety


After you shop, store groceries wisely

  • Potentially hazardous foods (ones that might spoil quickly such as dairy, eggs, meats, fruits and vegetables) should be refrigerated quickly.
  • Canned and dry foods should be kept in a cool, dry place.
  • Keep foods and supplies organized for efficiency - rotate to use oldest items first
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before serving, not before storing

Adapted from NFSMI Mealtime Memo For Child Care


Don't spread germs from one food to another

  • Store meat, poultry or fish in the "meat" drawer of the refrigerator, or put them on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator so the juices don't drip on other foods.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits under running water. Scrub fruit like melons with a brush or cloth.
  • Wash and sanitize cutting surfaces and utensils when you finish cutting raw poultry, meat, or fish. Household bleach is a good sanitizer. Use one teaspoon for each gallon of cool water. Dispose of wiping cloths after cleaning raw meat juice.
  • Use a cutting board without deep scratches, because they are difficult to properly sanitize.

Seattle and King County Public Health newsletter, 11/23/04


Cool and reheat foods properly to avoid growing germs

  • Keep cold foods cold (45º F or lower), and hot foods hot (above 140º F).
  • Refrigerate foods as soon as possible. Don't let food "cool down" before refrigerating.
  • Do not cover hot food until it has cooled to 45º F or below.
  • If food has been sitting at room temperature for up to two hours, refrigerate it or reheat it. If food has been sitting out for longer than two hours, throw it out.
  • Reheat leftovers or previously cooked food to at least 165º F.

Seattle and King County Public Health newsletter, 11/23/04


Safe handling of foods for refrigerating

  • Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or it can be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating. Cover foods to retain moisture and prevent them from picking up odors from other foods.
  • A large pot of food like soup or stew should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers before being refrigerated. A large cut of meat or whole poultry should be divided into smaller pieces and wrapped separately or placed in shallow containers before refrigerating.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website


Safety of foods stored on the refrigerator door

Don't store perishable foods on the door. Eggs should be stored in the carton on a shelf. The temperature of the storage bins on the door fluctuate more than the temperature in the cabinet. Keep the door closed as much as possible.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website


Tips for safe handling of fruits and vegetables

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially fresh whole fruits and vegetables and raw meat, poultry and fish. Clean under fingernails, too.
  • Rinse raw produce in warm water. Don't use soap or other detergents. If necessary--and appropriate--use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Use smooth, durable and nonabsorbent cutting boards that can be cleaned and sanitized easily.
  • Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap and a scrub brush to remove food particles. Then sanitize the boards by putting them through the automatic dishwasher or rinsing them in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach to 1 quart water. Always wash boards and knives after cutting raw meat, poultry or seafood and before cutting another food to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store cut, peeled and broken-apart fruits and vegetables (such as melon balls) at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit--that is, in the refrigerator.

FDA Consumer, 1/03


Reduce risk of pesticides on fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water and scrub with a dish brush when appropriate: for example, before eating apples, cucumbers, potatoes, or other produce in which the outer skin or peeling is consumed.
  • Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage.
  • Peel and cook when appropriate, although some nutrients and fiber may be lost when produce is peeled.

FDA Consumer, 1/03


"Sell By" dates on ground meat

"Sell-By" dates are a guide for retailers. Although many products bear "Sell-By" dates, product dating is not a Federal requirement. These dates are reliable only if the food has been kept at proper temperature during storage and handling. USDA suggests that consumers cook or freeze ground beef within 2 days after purchase for maximum quality. For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezing. Ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time. It is best if used within 4 months. Mark your packages with the date they were placed in the freezer so you can keep track of storage times.

USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service


The best way to thaw ground beef

The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is defrosting is essential to prevent growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze it within 1 or 2 days. To defrost ground beef more rapidly, you can defrost in the microwave oven or in cold water. If using the microwave, cook the ground beef immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting. To defrost in cold water, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave oven.

USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service


Handle Eggs Safely

Take eggs straight home from the store and store them immediately in the refrigerator set at 40°F or slightly below. Store them in their grocery carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator and not in the door. Use eggs within 3 to 5 weeks. Hard-cooked eggs will keep refrigerated for 1 week. If you have leftover yolks or egg whites, use them within 4 days. If eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, and keep refrigerated for use within 2 days.

Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work areas with warm, soapy water before and after contact with eggs and dishes containing eggs. Don't keep eggs -- including hard cooked eggs -- out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours. Serve cooked eggs and dishes containing eggs immediately after cooking, or place in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate at once for later use. Use within 3 to 4 days.

USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service


Freeze Eggs for Longer Storage

Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can be frozen by themselves. Use frozen eggs within a year. If eggs freeze accidentally in their shells, keep them frozen until needed. Defrost them in the refrigerator. Discard any with cracked shells.

USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service


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