Safe Food Preparation

Safe Food Preparation

Stephanie Thiede, PHN

When we think of the holidays, one of the things that come to mind is food. It is a time when we are bringing a dish to pass for a potluck at work or preparing a nice dinner for family and friends. While we are celebrating, however, we do not necessarily think about food-borne illness. There are safe food handling practices that we need to remember not only during this season, but whenever we are preparing and consuming food.  These four easy steps can help to keep you and your guests safe:

  • Clean. Bacteria can spread on hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils. Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot soapy water after each use. Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.
  • Separate. Cross-contamination is how bacteria spread. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another for salads and other ready-to-eat foods. Keep these meats and their juices apart from other items in your grocery cart or on the counter top. Store meats in a container or on a plate so drippings do not fall onto other foods.
  • Cook. Improper heating can allow bacteria to survive. Simply looking at food is not adequate to determine if it is cooked enough, use a food thermometer. It is recommended by the FDA to cook most meats to an internal temperature of 160-165°F. Stir, rotate the dish and cover food while microwaving to prevent cold spots. Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Chill. Improper cooling can also allow bacteria to survive. Cool the fridge to 40°F or below and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature. Chill leftovers and takeout food within two hours, and divide food into shallow containers for more rapid cooling. Thaw meats in the fridge, not on the counter, and do not overstuff the fridge.

By remembering, clean, separate, cook and chill, you can help to reduce the chances of food-borne illnesses. For additional information on food safety, call the health department at 715-627-6250 or visit:

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