When preparing any fresh produce, start with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation. Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating. This includes produce grown at home, purchased from a grocery store, or bought at a farmers’ market.
Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not needed. It is important to wash the surface of the produce, even if you do not plan to eat the skin. Dirt and bacteria can be transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.
- Many precut, bagged, or packaged produce items are prewashed and ready to eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging and you can use the produce without further washing.
- Cut away any damaged, discolored, or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating.
- Make sure all cutting boards and knives used to cut fresh produce are washed in soapy water and rinsed before using again.
Source: Food Safety.gov
- Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings, are often opened and forgotten on the door or shelf of your refrigerator. Although they may last a long time, they can become expired or spoiled before they are completely used. Tips to ensure safe condiments include the following:
- Label foods with the date the container is first opened.
- Use open condiments before opening a new one.
- Check product quality and labeled date before consuming condiments (see below).
- Throw away if spoiled or expired.
WHAT DO THE PRODUCT DATES MEAN?
Best by, use by, best if used by, best before – all indicate the date a product should be used for best quality, neither is a food safety/spoilage issue.
Shelf life of common condiments after opening
- Olives: 2 weeks
- Barbeque Sauce: 4 months
- Pesto: 3 days
- Gravy: 1–2 days
- Pickles: 1–3 months
- Horseradish: 3–4 months
- Relish: 9 months
- Hot Sauce: 6 months
- Salad Dressing: 1–3 months
- Jams and Jellies: 6–12 months
- Taco Sauce: 1 month
- Ketchup: 6 months
- Soy Sauce: 1 month
- Mayonnaise: 1–2 months
- Worcestershire Sauce: 1 year
- Mustard: 1 year
For more information, download Foodsafety.gov’s FoodKeeper App (www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp)
With spring cleaning right around the corner, it’s important to prioritize what needs cleaning in our homes. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the household. This place where meals and snacks are prepared and served daily tends to have the most germs. The “germiest” area in the kitchen as well as the second “germiest” item in the household is the sink. This spring, clean everything and the kitchen sink to reduce germs in your home. Wash and sanitize the sides and bottom of the sink once or twice a week with disinfecting cleaner or in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. Clean kitchen drains and disposals every month by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water down them.
Sources: Germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org); Cleaning the germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org)
March is National Frozen Food Month! To celebrate, try these nutritious and delicious options from and helpful tips for the frozen food section:
- Frozen Produce–Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option when purchasing out of season produce. Frozen varieties are packed with nutrients, sometimes more than fresh items, because they are packaged at the peak of harvest season. Frozen produce is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.
- Frozen Meat, Poultry, Seafood–Fresh animal protein can be expensive behind the counter, but frozen options can be just as nutritious and delicious when carefully selected. Proteins not breaded or fried are the best options. The frozen section is also a terrific place to find several meat alternatives, such as plant-based burgers or tofu meatballs.
- Check the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content on the Nutrition Facts Label; try to purchase products with less than 10% of the Daily Value.
- Save frozen entrées and pizzas for busy nights; add other items to these meals and snacks, such as steamed vegetables, sliced apples with nut butter, or a side salad, to increase nutrient density.
To start stocking your freezer, here is a chart with recommended storage times for common frozen food items:
Food Storage: Time in Freezer (0° or below)
Ground Meats: 3–4 months
Fresh Meat (steaks, chops, roasts): 4–12 months
Fresh Poultry: 9 months (pieces), 1 year (whole)
Cooked Meat or Poultry: 2–6 months
Soups and Stews: 2–3 months
Breaded Poultry (chicken nuggets/patties): 1–3 months
Pizza: 1–2 months
Frozen Dinners or Entrées: 2–3 months
Leftovers (casseroles, pasta): 2–3 months
Sources: Frozen food: Convenient and nutritious. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; McDonald, L. (2012). Freezer foods. Supermarket savvy: Aisle-by-aisle teaching modules; Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
Do you wash your coffee pot every morning, or rinse and reuse the next day? What about the inside of the machine? Do you occasionally run a pot of water or vinegar through? Whether you use a single-use coffee-maker or a traditional multicup machine, they can be difficult to clean, so the rinse-and-reuse method is common. Because coffee is acidic, it should prevent the growth of bacteria. Right?
Actually, there are bacteria that are not only resistant to the acidity of coffee, but they also use the caffeine as an energy source. Moreover, these bacteria are able to quickly repopulate the machine after rinsing alone, and bacteria continue to grow in number and diversity the longer the machine is in use. To avoid unwanted contamination of our beverages with harmful bacteria, be sure you clean your coffee machines, inside and out, frequently following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Source: Vilanova C, Iglesias A, Porcar M. The coffee-machine bacteriome: Biodiversity and colonization of the wasted coffee tray leach. Sci. Rep. 2015;5:1–7. DOI: 10.1038/srep17163.
Fruit-infused water has become popular in recent years. It’s a great way to drink more and stay hydrated. With no added sugar, it’s a good alternative to juice or soda. The endless flavor combinations are tasty and refreshing. There are some important food safety tips to remember, however. To avoid increased bacteria growth and foodborne illness, follow these tips:
- Start with clean hands; wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
- Wash produce thoroughly under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush on firm items such as oranges or lemons.
- Use clean cutting boards and utensils to avoid crosscontamination.
- Store infused water in the refrigerator at 40°F or below in a sealed pitcher.
- If you are taking your infused water on the go, make sure to drink it within four hours. Infused water at room temperature must be used or discarded after four hours to prevent bacteria growth.
- For best results, drain fruit solids within 24 hours and refrigerate water up to three days.
- Always start with clean equipment for new batches; avoid refilling the same pitcher.
Source: Michigan State University Extension
Does your favorite holiday recipe include raw eggs as an ingredient? Raw eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria cause food poisoning, especially if consumed by pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those who may have a weakened immune system.
To safely adapt recipes containing raw eggs, try one of the following options:
- Add the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heat the mixture until it reaches 160°F on a food thermometer.
- Use store-bought versions of the home-prepared item. Check the label to be sure items are already cooked or pasteurized.
- Purchase eggs labeled “pasteurized.” Options include the following:
— Fresh, pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section)
— Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the refrigerator section)
— Frozen, pasteurized egg products (found in the frozen food section)
— Powdered egg whites (found in the baking section)
Source: Food Facts, FDA, January 2017
There’s always one person at holiday gatherings who double dips at the table. They take a bite out of their chip or carrot and then inconspicuously stick it back in the dip again. This habit is gross, but is it actually dangerous? A study conducted recently by Harvard Medical School found that double dipping can add bacteria to dips.
No studies have examined how much disease double dipping causes. However, saliva from a sick person often contains infectious germs. Researchers say your chances of getting sick from a healthy person who double dips are less than from sick people who cough or sneeze without washing their hands. Still, to protect the health of your guests, serve them dip on individual plates or put a spoon in the dip, so they won’t be tempted to double dive into the common dip bowl.
Source: Shmerling RH. “Double dipping” your chip: Dangerous or just…icky?” Harvard Health Publishing. August 4, 2016.
Soups, casseroles, and pot roasts are a great way to warm up on a cool autumn day. Super cooling a large quantity of hot leftovers or planned-overs made in advance is a good idea to keep food safe. Do not cool hot food at room temperature or place large quantities of hot food in the refrigerator. Both practices can cause food to be in the temperature danger zone (40°F–140°F) for too long, which may lead to bacterial growth. Options for super cooling include the following:
- Super cool a large roast or poultry by cutting it into smaller pieces. Refrigerate pieces in a single layer.
- Reduce large quantities of hot food by putting them in smaller, shallow metal pans. Place shallow pans in refrigerator or freezer to cool.
- Place a large pot of hot food in an ice bath (sink of ice and cold water). Stir occasionally until food is cool, then refrigerate.
Download Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook from the USDA for home food safety guidance.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2018 Food and Health Survey reported consumer confusion about food and nutrition. Eighty percent of survey respondents stated they have come across conflicting information about food and nutrition, and 59% state the conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.
It is no wonder consumers are confused. There is an explosion of nutrition and food safety information readily available, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction. One reliable source is the IFIC Foundation. The IFIC Foundation’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good. The public nonprofit organization partners with credible professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to advance the public understanding of key issues.
Topics recently explored on the IFIC Foundation’s website and blog include the following:
- What’s the Carnivore Diet?
- Google Can’t Diagnose Your Food Allergy
- Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame
- Snacking Series: Do Snacks Lead to Weight Gain?
Food Advocates Communicating Through Science (FACTS) is a global network of the IFIC Foundation that can help consumers understand the science behind the myths and truth related to food, nutrition, and food safety.
Learn more about the IFIC Foundation or about FACTS.
Source: IFIC Foundation