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
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)
When spring arrives, we typically deep clean for the coming season. With the cold weather outside, it’s a good time to clean the freezer. It’s important to keep the freezer clean of frost and food debris. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintaining your freezer:
- Remove all frozen food items.
- Check items for expiration dates and for freezer burn.
- Consider throwing out any food that appears old and dried out. It may still be safe to eat, but the quality may be poor. Ice crystals on the inside of packages may indicate thawing and refreezing—those packages may need to be thrown out. Frozen food can be stored up to 1 year.
- Pack food items you are keeping in another freezer or a cooler until you can return them to the freezer.
- Wipe down the freezer with one tablespoon of baking soda in one quart of water. Then wipe with clean water before turning the freezer back on.
- Let the freezer cool down for about 30 minutes before placing the frozen items back into it.
- Put a freezer thermometer near the door of the freezer and check it periodically. Adjust the temperature control as needed to keep foods at or below 0°F.
You can see a video on how to clean your refrigerator on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/organize-your-space/.
Source: Michigan State University Extension, www.msue.msu.edu.
For more information, visit www.FoodSafety.gov.
Sponges are great at absorbing all things…including germs! Practice these tips to use them safely:
- To sanitize, microwave damp sponge for one minute or put it in a dishwasher with a drying cycle. According to the USDA, these methods will kill more than 99% of bacteria, yeasts, and mold.
- Clean sponges after two or three uses.
- Avoid using sponges when wiping up meat juices and on countertops. Instead use a paper towel and a sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.
- Wring out a sponge after each use and store in a dry location.
- Once a sponge starts to smell, throw it out immediately.
- Finally, don’t forget about the dish towels and dish cloths. Launder them frequently in hot water and consider using a separate dish towel for hand and dish drying.
Source: eatright, www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/dos-and-donts-of-kitchen-sponge-safety
Shake off winter by doing some spring cleaning. It is a great time to target harmful bacteria that can hang out on kitchen surfaces and even in your refrigerator. You can’t see bacteria, but they are everywhere! They especially like moist environments. A clean and dry kitchen protects you and your family from foodborne illness.
- Always clean surfaces with hot, soapy water. After thoroughly washing surfaces with hot, soapy water, sanitize them with a disinfectant kitchen spray or diluted chlorine bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart of water). Let the solution stand on the surface for a few minutes, then blot dry with clean paper towels.
- Disinfect dishcloths often. Launder dishcloths and towels frequently using the hot water cycle of the washing machine. Then be sure they are thoroughly dry.
Rid your refrigerator of spills, bacteria, mold, and mildew. Clean your fridge weekly to kill germs that could contaminate foods. Clean interior surfaces with hot, soapy water. Rinse well with a damp cloth; dry with a clean cloth. Some manufacturers recommend not using chlorine bleach because it can damage seals, gaskets, and linings.
- Clean your kitchen sink drain and disposal. Pour a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water down the drain once or twice per week. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth.
Sources: www.fightbac.org and www.foodsafety.gov