Every few months, headlines announce an outbreak of food poisoning, whether it’s salmonella in cucumbers, listeria in cheese, or E. coli in meat. So how do you keep your kitchen free of these food-borne germs? Follow these kitchen safety tips from Kaiser Permanente:
1. Be Careful with the Cutting Board
Wash or wipe each cutting board thoroughly after use with a disinfecting soap or cleaner. According to the U.S.D.A., non-porous surfaces such as plastic, ceramic, or stone are easier to keep clean than wood, but all can be used safely as long as you’re careful.
2. Focus on the Fridge
Perhaps most frequently neglected appliance in your kitchen is the refrigerator, which requires a little TLC to stay cool and keep food fresh and bacteria-free. So before you stuff it with another load of groceries:
- Check that the temperature is set under 40 degrees. Anything higher welcomes bacterial growth.
- Vacuum the front grill regularly to keep the condenser from collecting animal hair or dust.
- Remove leftovers and expired products weekly. Keep it simple — if you’re unsure whether an item should be tossed, get rid of it.
- Wipe up spills on the spot, especially raw juices. Store uncooked meats only on the bottom shelf to decrease risk of contamination.
- Deodorize the interior by placing a box of baking soda in the back — change it every three months.
- Brush the coils twice a year at least (more often if you have pets that shed) or if you notice a warming trend inside the fridge. (Just be sure to unplug it first.)
3. Dry with Care
Sponges are notorious for harboring germs, and recent research from the University of Arizona found that dishtowels were nearly as bad. Sanitize sponges every other day by washing them in the dishwasher, cleaning them with bleach, or microwaving them, and throw them away after a week or two depending on usage. Swap out dishtowels every couple of days, and toss a towel in the washer whenever you’ve used it to wipe down a counter or floor spill.
3. Beware the Dangers of Defrosting
Speaking of the refrigerator, that’s where you want to thaw meat and other frozen foods, not on the counter where room temperatures allow bacteria to multiply. Allow adequate time to defrost food slowly while keeping it cool.