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Strive for food safety all year long

By Staff
Carolyn Bivins
Even though September has been designated as National Food Safety Education Month, it's very important to take steps to practice good food safety tips 24/7, 365 days a year.
Why you might ask?
Because with busy lifestyles today, more friends and family members are helping out in the kitchen lending a hand with meals, snacks, clean up and even grocery shopping. That's why everyone in your household needs to know the "recipe" for handling and preparing food safely. Here are the four key ingredients and the most important steps you need to follow each day.
Ingredient # 1 Clean – Wash Hands and Surfaces Often
Wash hands with hot soapy water or as warm as you can stand it, before handling raw meat, poultry or seafood.
Avoid handling food when ill, or if you have cuts or sores on your hands.
Wash cutting boards and knives before and after preparing raw meat, poultry or seafood.
Ingredient # 2 Separate – Don't Cross-Contaminate
Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
Use separate cutting boards – one for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for all other foods. Wash cutting boards with hot sudsy water after each use.
Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
Ingredient # 3 Cook – Cook to Proper Temperatures:
Cook food to the proper internal temperature; check for doneness with a thermometer.
To keep bacteria from growing, do not allow food to be in the danger zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees (room temperature) for longer than two hours.
When microwave cooking, cover the food, stir and rotate; when finished let stand for two minutes to distribute the heat, then stir again.
Ingredient # 4 Chill – Refrigerate Promptly:
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
Never defrost (or marinate) foods on the kitchen counter. Use the refrigerator, cold water or microwave method.
People often ask me how long we should wash our hands and what kind of soap is best to use. The answer is – wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
You should sing the Happy Birthday song twice (even sung quickly, it takes just about that much time).
Any good liquid hand soap will do, but there are plenty of great anti-bacterial soaps on the market for added protection. The important things to remember are to wash hands with vigorous agitation, under hot-as-you-can stand running water and scrub from the tips of fingers up and over all exposed areas of the forearms. Remember to wash hands and surfaces often.