Kitchen-Safety

Kitchen-Safety ~ Kitchen Tricks

Think restaurants are scary?

Turns out you're also at risk in your very own kitchen.

Most people worry about food poisoning, except when they're doing the cooking.

But here's a shocker: Nearly 25% of victims of food-borne illness get it from a home-cooked meal.

Research proves that people are not as careful handling food as they need to be.

Many of them believe they're doing a good job, but when their behavior was studied, they're not.

Find out where you might be tripping up and how easily you can make changes that will keep your family safe.

Remove Your Jewelry before Cooking

While cooking food you need to remember to remove any loose jewelry including medical information bracelets on your wrists and hands.

Most accidents occur when an earring or other jewelry, such as wedding bands are lost into the food that is getting prepared, or worse, losing your jewelry down the sink drain when washing up after your food preparation.

Extra kitchen-safety:

Do not wear any jewelry; this will prevent any accidents of this nature from occurring.

Clean Hands, Clean Food

Foodborne illness outbreaks remind us that our food supply may not be as safe as we think it is.

Research shows you need to wash several times while cooking to stay safe.

Try to wash up every time you switch to a new component of the meal, like when moving from meat to veggies to spices.

Most kitchen-safety "violations" occur when you go back and forth between meat (or poultry, egg, or seafood) and ready-to-eat foods such as salad fixings without washing hands in between.

Extra kitchen-safety: Don't wash up on autopilot.

Count to 20 while rubbing hands under water.

And use soap because rinsing alone won't get rid of bacteria.

You Wash Produce As Soon As You Get It Home.

It's nice to have fresh herbs and veggies cleaned and ready for you to begin cooking.

But if you wash produce before you stash it in the fridge, mold and other microbes can grow in moisture left behind.

Instead, clean produce right before you prepare it.

Extra kitchen-safety: Discard the outer layer of lettuce and cabbage, where contamination is most likely to occur.

Then rinse the rest of the head (skip the soap, it could leave a residue, which you don't want to eat).

A 20-second plain-water rinse will get rid of some bacteria, but for better protection make your own natural cleaning concoction.

Mix 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 2 Tbs. distilled white vinegar, and 1 c. cold tap water in a spray bottle, shake well, and apply to your produce.

Rinse with tap water before cooking or serving.

Always wash your hands before handling or preparing food; plain soap and water work as well at killing germs as soaps labeled "antibacterial."

You Rinse Only Fruit With Edible Skin

Surprise: Fruits with inedible peels or rinds, such as bananas and melons, can be as risky as those you eat whole because bacteria on the surface can be transported inside by a knife when you slice through it.

Rinse while using a scrub brush to remove dirt, debris, and germs; toss the brush into the dishwasher afterward.

Extra kitchen-safety: Cut stems from tomatoes, strawberries and peppers after washing so bacteria can't seep inside.

For better protection make your own natural cleaning concoction: Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup cold tap water in a spray bottle, shake well, and apply to your produce.

Rinse with tap water before cooking or serving.

You Clean As You Cook

Good move.

Unless you're too free with your dish towel, chopping a potato, wiping the cutting board, then using the towel to clean your serving bowls too, where it could spread germs that can make you sick.

Use dish towels only to dry clean hands, and rely on paper towels and an antimicrobial disinfectant to wipe down counter tops and cutting boards.

Extra kitchen-safety: You'd never put raw meat, which can be loaded with bacteria, directly on the counter.

So don't set unwashed produce down there either, put it on a dish or cutting board you can wash later.

You Leave Meals Warming on the Stove Top or in the Oven

Bacteria can thrive when food is anywhere from 41°F to 135° F., which when you think about it is a surprisingly large range.

So setting aside a meal, say, in a still warm oven or on the stove top for a family member to eat later may allow it to spoil.

Even foods that seem harmless, like rice or pasta, could become dangerous.

And don't think reheating a dish that's been sitting out will make it safe.

Some toxins that can form when food is left out too long are resistant to heat.

A good rule of thumb: If your loved one will be more than 2 hours late, stick the dish in the fridge until it's ready to be warmed up.

Extra kitchen-safety: Store hot leftovers in small, shallow containers; that allows food to cool more quickly.

Don't stack too many containers together, a tightly packed refrigerator doesn't cool as efficiently, allowing bacteria to grow.

You Set Your Fridge Temp to "Cold"

You'd think that would be cool enough to slow the growth of bacteria.

But because built-in control dials don't tell you what the actual temperature is, you can't be sure you're keeping food between 35°F and 40°F, which is where it needs to be to do the job.

Buy a thermometer that attaches to the inside wall or sits on a shelf and check it once a month.

Extra kitchen-safety: Buy a thermometer for the freezer also and it should read 0°F, the temp at which food freezes solid.

You Cook Burgers Until the Pink is Gone

Think that if a burger looks well-done, it must be germ free?

The eyeball method doesn't work, a meat thermometer is the only way to tell if it's been cooked to a safe 160°F.

Thawed meat can turn a little brown, so it might look done before it really is, while some lean burgers might still look pink when they hit 160°F.

To check a burger's doneness, insert the thermometer into the center of the meat, and chow down only if the reading is 160°F or higher.

Extra kitchen-safety: If the burger's not hot enough and you have to cook it longer, be sure to wash the thermometer before you test the meat again to avoid cross contamination.

Did you know?

Produce is responsible for almost twice as many cases of food poisoning as poultry and almost three times as many as beef, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Prepare for a Fire

Mount a dry-chemical fire extinguisher at eye level near the exit of your kitchen.

Review the usage instructions frequently, so you’ll know how to use it should the need arise.

You can dump baking soda on very small kitchen fires, as long as the stuff is clearly labeled, you don’t want to use flour by mistake, since it’s flammable.

And remember to never pour water on grease fires; it’s likely to splatter the grease and spread the flames.

Keep a smoke detector nearby for your kitchen-safety as well, but not a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity, and by close proximity to gas stoves, so they should be located way from kitchens (and bathrooms).

Clean Green

We all like to keep our kitchens sparkling, and the good news is, the safest homemade cleaning products also tend to be the cheapest!

Forego harsh cleaners that claim to be antimicrobial/antibacterial or disinfectant.

They often contain chemicals that can irritate your lungs, eyes, and skin, and some have been found to contain carcinogens.

Instead, mix 1 part white vinegar and 9 parts water as a general cleaning solution that will wipe out nearly all germs.

For a glass cleaner, mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part water, and spray.

And for cleanup after preparing meat, use hot, soapy water first (we prefer unscented castile soap), and then follow with the vinegar solution.

For washing dishes, avoid detergents whose labels read like chemistry books and look for plant-based cleaners with no artificial fragrances.

Phase Out Plastic Containers

More and more studies are connecting certain plastics to health problems, with No. 3 (PVC) and No. 7 plastics that contain bisphenol-A (BPA) raising the most warning flags.

BPA is also found in many plastic takeout containers and canned food liners.

No. 6 plastics (polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam) also leach chemicals into food and drink.

While Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 5 plastics are considered kitchen-safety options, we suggest storing your food in glass containers, and choosing a stainless steel reusable water bottle for bringing beverages on the go.

Consider Your Pots and Pans

Teflon and other nonstick pots and pans contain PFOA, perfluorinated chemicals that some studies have linked to fertility problems and thyroid disease.

If you already have this type of cookware, cook things on low heat, avoid scratching it, and when it’s time to buy replacements, look for unseasoned cast iron, stainless steel, or glass products.

Brew a Safer Cup of Joe

Bleached coffee filters contain small amounts of the toxin dioxin.

Pick unbleached filters or, better yet, go filter-free by using a French press to prepare coffee.

If you want to go the extra mile, choose organic, shade-grown coffee , which means the coffee was grown without leveling a rainforest or using harmful chemicals.

Smithsonian’s Bird-Friendly certification is considered the gold standard.

Opt For Clean Food

Food serves as the centerpiece of our kitchen, the thing that brings us all together.

To keep the safest choices on hand, choose organic whenever you can.

Pesticides commonly used in conventional agriculture contain about 180 hormone-disrupting chemicals that studies have linked to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, developmental problems, and even cancer.

Buying organic also means you’re not putting genetically modified food on the table.

Genes from other organisms (GMO's) are commonly inserted into soy, corn, and canola crops in the United States, and since they have been around less than 20 years, we don’t fully know how these genetically modified foods impact the environment or us.

Buy food that’s in season and shop at farmer’s markets and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs to get good deals.

Stop Bugs Safely

Chemical insecticides have been linked to childhood brain tumor development, lupus, ADHD, autism, and low IQs.

To reduce the need for these harmful chemicals, keep things bug-free by cleaning up after preparing a meal, and put things like cereals, candy, and pet food in glass or metal sealable storage containers.

And on that note, "let's all try and be a little bit safer in the kitchen."

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