Activating Your Holiday Kitchen

carrotsIt’s the holiday season and your kitchen may be one of the millions in America that is about to be activated. Get ready to turn out your favorite dishes in the warmest, friendliest room in the house. But keep in mind that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year one in six Americans (48 million) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illness. Here are some tips to help prevent the spread of foodborne illness during the holiday cooking season:

Handle Food Safely

  • Clean – Wash all food contact surfaces with hot, soapy water followed by disinfecting with 1/2 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 1/2 gallon of water. Do this before and after working with raw foods, especially meat and poultry.
  • Wash Hands – Thoroughly wash hands with warm, soapy water before and after all food preparation and after handling turkey.
  • Compartmentalize – Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Cook – to kill any bacteria that might be present, thoroughly cook meat, poultry and eggs to the appropriate temperature.
  • Chill – Refrigerate leftover perishables at 40 degrees within two hours after cooking or serving.

Zap that Sponge to Stop Spreading Germs

From a microbiological point of view, the kitchen sponge may be the most contaminated item in your home.  Researchers recommend “zapping” wet kitchen sponges every other day or so (more frequently during heavy use) for 2 minutes on high power to destroy germs that thrive in damp sponges.  This is a simple and effective method when carried out properly (with the emphasis on “properly” because improper microwaving of sponges can cause severe skin burns and has the potential to start a fire).

Zap It Safely:

  • Guard against the risk of fire: Ensure sponge is completely wet before placing in the microwave oven.
  • Guard against burns: Be careful when removing sponge from the microwave oven as it will be hot and there may be steam when the microwave is opened.
  • Guard against electrical shorting: Sponges should have no metallic content.

Wash Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable bags are only as clean as the items with which we fill them and research shows they may contain large numbers of bacteria. You can take steps to help prevent cross-contamination with “bag bacteria.”

  • Ask to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods at the check-out.
  • Clean bags regularly. Canvas and cloth bags can be washed in washing machines; plastic reusable bags can be washed by hand with hot, soapy water.
  • Store bags in a dry environment with good air circulation, not in the trunk of your car.

The Water Quality & Health Council wishes you a happy, healthy Holiday Season!