Tips for food safety: separate, chill and throw away

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By: Mary Ann Leinhart-Cross
lienhart@purdue.edu

Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture

Last week, I wrote about three parts of the six-step process of the new “Fight Bac Like a Produce Pro” guidelines: check, clean and rinse. Now it’s time for the last three: separate, chill and throw away.

Separate

When it comes to “separate,” what you need to understand and practice is to separate produce from raw meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and household chemicals.

This rule applies to the items in your shopping cart, your bags at the checkout, as well as in your refrigerator. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

When preparing food, keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Do not use the same cutting board or utensils without cleaning them with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Food can become contaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens. Researchers found cleaning cutting boards and utensils with hot soap and water and bleach will help prevent cross-contamination.

Chill

When I am presenting programs to help people remember the temperature your refrigerator should be, I share a visual.

You have four fingers on one hand; make a fist with the other and you have 40 — the temperature you should keep your refrigerator at or below. Also, refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours of preparing.

The USDA/​FDA risk assessment found keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range 40 to 140, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the danger zone.

Throw Away

The last of the six food safety habits is to throw away any fresh fruit and vegetables that have not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking.

Remove and throw away bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables when preparing to cook them or before eating them raw. Throw away any fruit or vegetables that have touched raw meat, poultry or seafood unless you are going to thoroughly cook them. If in doubt, throw it out.

The bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables are more susceptible to the growth of bacteria that may cause illness. Food can become contaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens.

Do you still have questions about food safety? Ask it in the comment section below, or send me an email at lienhart@purdue.edu.

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