When faced with a wicked case of food poisoning, you default the blame to your last restaurant meal. But you might want to look a little closer to home: the culprit might actually be your kitchen. Scary but true: it’s not difficult to pick up a bug in your own home.
Health Canada estimates there are almost 11 million cases of food-related illnesses yearly.
Keep your kitchen clean and clear of contaminants by avoiding the mistakes we all make.
1. Mistake: you buy in bulk
Grocery shop wisely. The more you buy, the more likely the food will go bad without you realizing it. Plus, fruits and veggies lose vitamins with time as they sit in the fridge.
Though it may be time consuming to plan multiple visits to the grocery store, it’s the first step you can take to protect your health.
2. Mistake: you ignore expiration dates
If checking best before dates isn’t already a habit, implement it now. And even if the suggested date has yet to pass, trust your eyes and nose when you sense something’s not right. When shopping for eggs, open the carton up to ensure all shells are intact “ even the smallest cracks can contaminate an egg.
It’s also worth keeping these guidelines in mind: once opened, mayo lasts two months, baby food lasts up to three days, peanut butter should live in the fridge (not in the cupboard) after three months and leftovers should be thrown out after four days. As for milk, keep it at the back of the fridge (not in the door where it’s warmer) and drink it within a week of the sell-by date.
3. Mistake: you’re not careful with cutting boards and utensils
To prevent the spread of bacteria and germs, use separate chopping boards (plastic ones absorb less bacteria than wood) for raw meats and produce, and always wash utensils and stirring spoons when moving between pots.
Never serve cooked meat with the same utensils you used when it was raw and if you’re planning to save that marinade, it needs to be heated to a boil before you eat it.
4. Mistake: leaving clean up until morning
Sure, it’s easy to shut the door and ignore food that splatters onto the walls of your microwave “ don’t.
That closed, dark, warm little room is the perfect bacterial breeding ground. Same goes for countertop food spills “ wipe them up right away.
5. Mistake: you forget your hands
When you’re cooking, handling different foods and sampling dishes, be sure to wash hands with soap and hot water “ especially after touching eggs, fish and meat. Also, always thoroughly flush fruits and veggies with clean, cold water before you enjoy them.
6. Mistake: you leave leftovers to languish
Pack up your leftovers and don’t leave them at room temperature for longer than two hours. And when you’re divvying it all up, avoid stuffing all of last night’s pasta in one tight container. Dividing it into several containers will prevent bacteria from growing in the centre of big food clumps that don’t cool evenly.
7. Mistake: you don’t own a meat thermometer
They’re digital, a cinch to use and cheap to buy.
Since it’s not always so easy to tell by cutting meat open and looking at it, using a food thermometer is the best way to check if it’s properly cooked.
Also, try to cook frozen meat as soon as it has thawed: the longer it sits out, the quicker bacteria multiplies.
8. Mistake: you’ve had the same dirty sponge since¦when?
Though it’s not always the most eco-friendly choice, paper towel is a lifesaver when it comes to wiping up food messes “ you can quickly throw it out before other food and surfaces are contaminated, and it won’t collect bacteria like a sponge.
If you’re using a sponge for your dishes, counters and even to wipe spills off the floor, you may be unintentionally spreading bacteria all over the house.
Even if it doesn’t look dirty, replace your sponge every two to four weeks and in between try this trick: thoroughly wet the sponge and place it in the microwave for one to two minutes to kill all the bacteria that’s been hitching a ride. Avoid wringing it out until it has cooled completely and set it someplace where it can dry completely.