Handling Food Safely Prevents Food Poisoning

Most food poisoning cases originate in home kitchens. Safe food handling is crucial for preventing upset stomachs and contaminated food in your green kitchen.

Handling Food Safely is Really Important Because it Prevents Food Poisoning

Preparing and serving clean, wholesome food is a really nurturing thing to do. It’s easy to keep a clean, sanitary kitchen if you are willing to learn some new methods of handling food safely, and if you are willing to try some new cleaning products. You just need to take care. So pay attention now and don’t allow food poisoning to muck up your culinary expressions of love.

Together we’ll learn how to keep our kitchen nice and clean without toxic chemical disinfectants and anti-bacterial products. We’ll educate ourselves about how to obtain the freshest, cleanest meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Why bring already contaminated food into our kitchens! And we’ll find out how to clean, cook, and store food safely to prevent food poisoning with the help of the USDA, and FoodSafety.gov. Let us toast to our health and happiness.

Ellen Sandbeck, one of my favorite writers on green cleaning sums up the contents of my post on safe food handling nicely in her book Green Housekeeping,handling food safely

“The only weapons that are effective against food poisoning microbes are proper food handling, cooking, and storage techniques, and careful, thoughtfully executed kitchen sanitation.”

FOOD POISONING – OFten Caused by Not handling Food Safely

Lots of people suffer unnecessarily from food poisoning here in the United States. Most food poisoning cases in the United States are easily preventable because they originate in home kitchens. That’s right, our kitchens! Not food carts, food courts, restaurants, deli sections, like you might think. Those commercial food preparers have to be licensed, and to be licensed you have to pass inspections and that means being clean and sanitary. In a perfect world that is! Ever seen Kitchen Nightmares?

Still, the fact remains that our home kitchens are less sanitary than commercial kitchens.

The other major factor in food poisoning cases in the U.S. is the food supply itself. As our food supply becomes more industrialized and centralized it is grown in monocultures by large corporations on massive farms. Food from these different farms is often mixed together at central processing and distribution centers within the United States. The dangerous problems of a centralized food system are revealed in the constant stream of food recalls covering multiple states and even more so in the people who get really sick and even die as a result of eating tainted food that they assumed was safe to eat.

Don’t assume anything. Try to stick to locally made, locally grown food products and you’ll be safer. During the egg salmonella scare a few years ago, I wasn’t worried for a second about the organic, eggs laid by some pretty pampered hens, relatively speaking, living a few hours away from me. Because this egg producer cares about his product he runs a clean business and respects his hens.

I admit that I pay more for these eggs, but to me, food is the last thing I want to skimp on. I am frugal about other things. I buy second hand furniture, cook most of my own meals, brew my own coffee, stay at guesthouses when I travel. You get it. I’m frugal with everything but the fuel/food that goes into my body!

Check out this post from the White House Blog about President Obamas Food Safety Working Group. You can download a PDF report.


Check out great article from the USDA. It gets right to the basics of Safe Food Handling. Naturally Bubbly does not agree that chlorine bleach is a necessary ingredient for keeping cutting boards sanitary, and notes that the article does say one “may” use chlorine. We actually would recommend against using chlorine bleach, or oxygen bleach, on your food preparation surfaces, sorry USDA!

Be Smart. Keep Foods Apart. 
Don’t Cross-Contaminate.

Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc., if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. When handling foods, it is important to Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart — Don’t Cross-Contaminate. By following these simple steps, you can prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery-shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. It is also best to separate these foods from other foods at check out and in your grocery bags.

When Refrigerating Food:
Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Raw juices often contain harmful bacteria. Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.

When Preparing Food:
Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops.

To prevent this:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.
  • Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Washcloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.

Cutting Boards:
Always use a clean cutting board.
If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.handling food safely
Marinating Food:
Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled just before using.
When Serving Food:
Always use a clean plate.
Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.
When Storing Leftovers:
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours or sooner in clean, shallow, covered containers to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying.

Last Modified: December 15, 2010

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Food Safety Temperatures

Cooking Food: The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to take its temperature.  For that you need a food thermometer. Check the charts for each meats safe cooked temperature.

Refrigerating and Freezing Food: The basic guideline is that your refrigerator needs to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer needs to be below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Food Storage and Safety: If you need more information about how to store specific meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs, check out these charts a Foodsafety.gov



How to Go About Preventing Food Poisoning in Your Kitchen 

Let’s discuss some specific foods and discover their unique tendencies to grow bacteria quickly. Try to remember that we can never get rid of bacteria. Bacteria are a major player in the scheme of human life on earth!  See my first post for perspective on bacteria and why we want them in our lives.

Check this out:  The goal of keeping food safe for consumption is achieved by preventing naturally existing bacteria from growing and multiplying into unsafe populations in that food, before and after it has been cooked or prepared. Complete food safety cannot be achieved by simply killing off bacteria in the food unless you plan to cook it and eat it immediately, and then throw the rest away. As soon as the food sits there, cooked or uncooked, like in your lunch box on the way to school or work, or just in your refrigerator (Listeria bacteria likes it cold) it is growing bacteria.

A questionable practice that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) seems to think is a good idea but may well just be an emergency measure, is treating food with radiation to kill nasty bacteria and parasites. While irradiation may succeed in killing bacteria, it doesn’t prevent new bacteria from growing, or spores from the dead bacteria from growing, or for that matter, doesn’t remove the toxic substance produced and deposited by the bacteria, the toxins that make us sick, while it was alive and multiplying.

Prevention is the best method, no question about it. No matter where I read, from government websites to the most extreme green living author, preventing food poisoning is achieved through just that, prevention!

Meat Safety – Beef, Poultry, Seafood

Safe meat handling is probably well known to most cooks I think, I hope!  The three most well known meat bacteria are Campylobacter jejuni, which comes from birds intestines, Escherichia coli (E. coli) most specifically E. coli 0157:H7 lives in animal intestines, and Salmonella found in animal and fish intestines as well as in eggs. All of these threats can be contained and neutralized by proper storage and cooking temperatures.

The most basic advice from all corners regarding the safe handling of meat is Don’t Cross Contaminate in your refrigerator or on your counter tops. You’d think people would know about this, but according to Ellen there was a study done at Utah State University that showed out of 100 people preparing a meal in a test kitchen, only 2 did not cross contaminate their counters and cutting boards with raw chicken juice.

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Julia has been practicing green cleaning for several years as the owner of As You Like It Home Cleaning and organic gardening for almost 20 years running Julia Houriet Custom Gardening. She studied landscape design at Radcliffe Seminars in Cambridge Massachusetts. Her expertise is gleaned from education and years of experience.

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