Nutrition Blog‎ > ‎

First Things First: Food Safety Starts with Cleaning

posted Jun 3, 2016, 6:38 AM by   [ updated Jun 3, 2016, 6:44 AM ]

Did you know that a major component of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) is Food Safety?  With the arrival of the summer months, it is natural to discuss the importance of food safety.  This month, we will review the main principles of the Fight BAC! Campaign as outlined in the 2015 DGAs.

The first principle is CLEAN. 

The first thing you should do when you enter your kitchen is wash your hands.  Are you always washing your hands appropriately? Proper hand washing takes at least 20 seconds (sing the ABCs once or “Happy Birthday” twice), while following these steps:

1. Wet your hands
2. Add Soap
3. Lather and Scrub, especially in between fingers and around fingernails
4. Rinse
5. Dry

Check out this video from the Fairfax County Government for further instruction.  ALWAYS make sure that you turn the water off and open doors with a paper towel to protect your freshly cleaned hands.

Once your hands are clean, you are ready to keep on cleaning.  That’s right; you really do need to make sure that your produce is cleaned before you begin to prepare it.  Simply rinsing it off with water is good enough.  Soaps or detergents are not recommended on produce and commercial produce cleaners are not necessary.  For tougher-skinned items (like potatoes and melons), scrubbing to get all of the visible dirt off is important…even if you don’t plan on eating the skin. Dry all produce with a clean cloth or paper towel before continuing on with your recipe. Do not rinse raw seafood, meat, or poultry.  Their raw juices can spread to other foods and surfaces. 

Once your hands and ingredients are clean, you’re ready to start cooking, right?  Maybe not.  When is the last time you cleaned ALL of your surfaces?  Hopefully, your utensils and cutting boards are cleaned after each use, but when is the last time you really cleaned your countertops or appliances?  Make sure that your workspace is clean before you begin, and ALWAYS clean it up after preparing food.  Surfaces should be washed with hot, soapy water regularly and sanitized with a sanitizing solution such as 1 tablespoon bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water, or many of the kitchen sanitizing sprays that are sold in most grocery stores. Utensils, cutting boards, and dishware should be sanitized in the dishwasher after each use. Small appliances should be scrubbed frequently, with special care given to the areas with buttons and knobs that are touched regularly and can trap dirt and germs.

Finally, you’ll want to clean out your refrigerator regularly so that you are storing your food on a clean surface, around other fresh clean foods!  This can also help you save money by reducing food waste. It is a good practice to do a refrigerator clean-out once per week. Cooked leftovers should be discarded after 4 days; raw poultry and ground meats after 1-2 days. Clean up any spills immediately.

Cleaning is just one part of the food safety picture, but it’s a big one.  Make keeping your hands, surfaces, and ingredients clean a priority this week.  Soon, it will become a habit that could save your life.