By: Joanne Cavis, UGA Cooperative Extension
September is National Food Safety Education Month . . . by keeping food safe from garden to table, you can save money instead of spending it on the consequences of foodborne illness.
No matter how you slice it, cutting boards should be washed and sanitized after every use, regardless of what they’re made of. Plastic, glass, granite, and hardwood cutting boards are dishwasher safe, or you can wash any kind of cutting board in the sink with hot water and soap, then rinse and sanitize with chlorine bleach and cool water solution. Air dry or use single-use paper towels. Once cutting boards of any type become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded. Remember, do not let bacteria cut up on your cutting board.
You might care that the food you are buying is organic and locally grown, but bacteria don’t. The fact is, any fresh, raw food can become unsafe with harmful bacteria if it’s not handled and stored properly. Take action at home to reduce your family’s risk of foodborne illness by practicing the four food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.
You know that freezing helps preserve food, but you may not know that freezing can’t make food safe to eat. Here are the cold facts: harmful bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. That means when food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and may begin to multiply. Cooking food to the proper internal temperature is the only way to kill harmful bacteria. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of cooked foods. Remember: Turn on the heat – and stop bacteria cold.
Just because you are a vegetarian – or someone who eats lots of fruits and veggies – doesn’t mean that harmful bacteria will always leave you alone. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but like other foods, they may carry a risk of foodborne illness. Always rinse products under running tap water, including fruits and vegetables with skins (bananas) and rinds (melons) that are not eaten. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables, as these cleaning products are not intended for consumption. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready to eat” or “washed” do not need to be re-washed.
Call me at 706.653.4200 with your food safety questions.