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There's nothing worse than a case of food poisoning over the holidays. The following tips will help keep your family safe when preparing meals.
WASH HANDS: Food safety experts say proper hand washing could cut the number of cases of food-borne illness in half. Wash your hands in warm water with soap before preparing food. There's no need to buy antibacterial soap. Regular soap works just as well. Wash your hands, front and back, up to your wrists, for about 20 seconds. Wash again when you change tasks, from handling raw meat to cutting vegetables, for example. Dry hands with disposable paper towels or clean cloth towels.
WASH PRODUCE: Rinse fruits and vegetables, including those with rinds, in running tap water. Remove any visible dirt or grime, using a clean scrub brush on firm produce. Discard the outermost leaves from a head of lettuce or cabbage. Refrigerate cut produce promptly.
SEPARATE BOARDS: Harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood can contaminate other foods if they come into contact. Avoid cross-contamination by using two cutting boards, reserving one for meat, poultry and seafood and the other for fruits, vegetables and breads. After use, wash the boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water or place in the dishwasher. Throw out the cutting board if it has cracks and crevices or is covered with knife scars.
HOT STUFF: Make sure harmful bacteria are destroyed by cooking food to the proper temperature. Using a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure that meat, pork, poultry, egg dishes and casseroles are done. Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145 degrees, ground meat to 160 degrees, pork to 160 degrees, and whole poultry to 180 degrees. Egg dishes and casseroles should reach 160 degrees. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees. Wash the thermometer stem in hot, soapy water after each use.
BE COOL: Get leftovers into the refrigerator within two hours to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent food-borne illness. On hot days when temperatures exceed 90 degrees, put away leftovers within one hour. Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40 degrees.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Foundation at www.homefoodsafety.org; Partnership for Food Safety Education at www.fightbac.org.
(The Los Angeles Daily News web site is at http://www.dailynews.com)
c. 2003 Los Angeles Daily News