Are you handling your food safely? One expert says probably not

A Moncton-based instructor on food security and nutrition gives her best advice for handling your food safely.

Recent E. coli incidents involving romaine lettuce has brought renewed attention to food safety

Janet Hamilton, an instructor at Mapleton Teaching Kitchens in Moncton, says people often skimp on washing their produce as carefully as they should. (CBC News)

You may not be handling your food as well as you think, says a New Brunswick food security and nutrition expert.

Janet Hamilton teaches food security and nutrition at Mapleton Teaching Kitchens in Moncton.

She said that while people seem to be aware of how important it is to handle meat carefully, that's not the case with produce.

"It's amazing how many people touch fruits and vegetables as soon as they walk in the door [of a grocery store]," she told CBC's Shift New Brunswick.

"It's very important that people wash their fruits and vegetables before they use them, and they tend to forget that."

The issue has been in the news recently, after several people became ill from E. coli contamination since mid-November from eating romaine lettuce. Two people died as a result.

Some restaurants even stopped serving it, and Sobeys took it off its shelves.

Washing tips

When it comes to washing lettuce, Hamilton recommends breaking it up, putting it in a colander or strainer, and then rinsing it with water over a bowl.

She also advised not to skip washing vegetables and fruit that have hard shells, such as melons, because once you cut into it, you could contaminate it from the outside.

Hamilton recommended scrubbing them with a brush before cutting.

"Even with turnips, squash, products like that, you want to scrub them before you cut them," she said.

Don't leave meat out for long

When it comes to meat, you really only have a four-hour window before you need to either cook or refrigerate it, she said.

Any meat that's been out at room temperature for longer than that becomes very prone to bacteria.

"You actually have to start the clock of four hours as soon as you put it in your cart," said Hamilton.

She also recommended using a separate cutting board specifically for meat, and storing meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to prevent leakage.

With files from CBC's Shift New Brunswick