Now that we are in the midst of the holiday season, there will be lots of good food and spirits abound. The last thing we want to do is to come in contact with spoiled or contaminated food. So as you are preparing your meals or participating in potlucks, remember the first cardinal rule of safe food preparation: Keep everything clean.
The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most importantly, to the cook. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or poultry. Cover long hair with a net or scarf, and be sure that any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered. If the sore or cut is infected, stay out of the kitchen.
Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Wash countertops with a solution of 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) of chlorine bleach to about 1 liter (1 quart) of water or with a commercial kitchen cleaning agent diluted according to product directions. They’re the most effective at getting rid of bacteria.
Also, be sure to keep dishcloths and sponges clean because, when wet, these materials harbor bacteria and may promote their growth. Wash dishcloths and sponges weekly in hot water in the washing machine.
While you’re at it, sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 5 milliliters of bleach to 1 liter of water or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or plastic and free of cracks and crevices. Avoid boards made of soft, porous materials. Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap, and a scrub brush. Then, sanitize them in an automatic dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 5 milliliters of chlorine bleach to about 1 liter of water.
Always wash and sanitize cutting boards after using them for raw foods, such as seafood or chicken, and before using them for ready-to-eat foods. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw fish, and another only for ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, fresh fruit, and cooked fish.
Always use clean utensils and wash them between cutting different foods.
Wash the lids of canned foods before opening to keep dirt from getting into the food. Also, clean the blade of the can opener after each use. Food processors and meat grinders should be taken apart and cleaned as soon as possible after they are used.
Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate or platter that has held raw meat.
Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, rinsing in warm water. Don’t use soap or other detergents. If necessary–and appropriate–use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.