Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Kitchen Wisdom Aimed at Avoiding Food Poisoning

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Kitchen Wisdom Aimed at Avoiding Food Poisoning

Article excerpt

Despite the attention to food-borne illnesses arising from the processing chain or from imports, as many as 70 percent of food- poisoning cases originate in the kitchen.

Each year, one in six Americans becomes sick from eating contaminated food. But while outbreaks of food-borne illness linked to processing plants or imported products capture the public's attention and raise fears about the safety of the food supply, as many as 70 percent of food-poisoning cases originate in the kitchen.

People, not products, are the main cause of food-borne illnesses, and they can be avoided by following certain basic principles of food safety.

Unfortunately, some of the best advice, like using disposable paper towels in place of reusable cloths and sponges, butts headfirst against modern efforts to be "green." Other measures, like discarding leftovers after two days, are antithetical to the "waste not, want not" philosophy I was raised on.

Still, there are many noncontentious steps that can be taken to minimize the risk that anyone will be sickened by the food you buy and prepare.

SHOPPING Seek stores that are clean, well-organized and appear to have high product turnover: You can tell partly by checking the expiration and sell-by dates on the goods. Reject expired products and those in damaged or leaking packages. Don't buy more perishables than you can use.

Pick up dry products first, then those that should be kept cold or frozen. In warm weather, or if there will be delays getting home, bring a cooler with ice or a freezer pack to keep items cold. Put all raw meats, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags before placing them in the shopping cart. At checkout, have them bagged separately from the dry foods and produce.

STORAGE Separate raw meats, poultry and fish from other foods in the refrigerator, placing them on the lowest shelf, in a bin or on a tray to prevent dripping. Freeze meats that will not be cooked within two or three days. Use eggs within three to five weeks of purchase. In the pantry, place newly bought products behind older ones, which should be used first.

Place thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer, if they are not built in. Make sure the temperatures are at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in the refrigerator and 2 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 16 Celsius) in the freezer. Defrost all uncooked foods in the refrigerator, the microwave or in a bowl of ice water.

PREPARATION Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water. Pin long hair back or cover it; remove rings and bracelets and put on a clean apron.

If you should sneeze, have to blow your nose or use the bathroom while working with food, wash your hands again. Half of people harbor the infectious Staphylococcus bacteria in their nasal passages. Also wash if you pet the dog or hand-feed it while preparing food. …

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