Your favourite cutting board, wooden spoon or tea towel could be harboring some nasty bugs that could make you and your family sick. Food safety professional Lee-Anne Lyon is here to show us how to keep your kitchen essentials safe.
1. Use a thin dishrag rather than a sponge to wash your dishes in hot soapy water and allow them to dry in between uses. Sponges stay wet longer and because they are porous they attract bacteria. If your dishrag smells like mildew that means it's not drying properly between uses and its time to throw it out and get a new one.
2. Use plastic pot scrapers over metal scouring pads - the metal can damage your pots making them unsafe for food preparation.
3. Keep anti-bacterial hand soap near your sink along with paper towels for hand drying. You must wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds to remove all traces of bacteria during food preparation.
Lee-Anne recommends paper towel over hand towels, only because hand towels are also a breeding ground for bacteria-if you do opt for hand towels change them daily to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Lee-Anne also suggests using rubber gloves; one pair for dish washing and another for cleaning-our skin is like a sponge, it absorbs all of the soaps, foods that we handle in the kitchen.
4. Colour-coded cutting boards.
Green= vegetables & fruit
Black= cooked or ready-to-eat
If you cut foods with strong odours, like onions and garlic, you might want to have a separate cutting board for these-so they don't "smell up" your other fruits or vegetables.
Having separate cutting boards for different food groups ensures the prevention of cross contamination. For example: if you're cutting raw chicken and vegetables on the same cutting board, the bacteria could potentially get on the vegetables, spreading bacteria that could make you sick-even after you wash the board. That cutting board doesn't get completely clean.
Poultry needs to have it's own separate cutting board because the naturally occurring bacteria on poultry requires super high heat to kill it-like the kind of heat you can get from cooking it-not even a dishwasher can always get your cutting board clean.
You can use plastic, composite, wood or bamboo cutting boards but Lee-Anne's preference is something non-porous like plastic. This ensures no bacterial residue gets left behind in the cleaning process. Otherwise it could lead to contamination in future food preparation.
5. Use a digital thermometer, these are easy to use and quickly determine if you meat is thoroughly cooked and therefore safe to eat. If certain meats like ground beef and chicken don't reach a certain internal temperature when cooked, even if they look cooked, it means there could still be bacteria present, which could lead to food borne illness. A thermometer can also determine if your leftovers have been cooled to the correct temperature. If leftovers have not cooled properly they also can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
6. Have a chart posted on or near your fridge that shows what temperatures you should be cooking your meats to-this chart can be found at www.canfightbac.org
7. Make sure all large utensils are stored in drawers and not open to the air near your stove. They can attract bacteria and dirt. When you go to reach for that utensil, you're grabbing the end that's going to make contact with the food-you should be grabbing the handle.
8. Periodically disinfect your countertops, kitchen sink and drains to prevent the proliferation of bacteria. There are a lot of good products on the market that are made for disinfecting your kitchen, so use them and especially after meat preparation.