Your kitchen holds more hazards than you might think. While we may often think that small bad habits in the kitchen are no big deal, it is often these little things that can lead to food-borne illnesses. So, quit these bad habits and practise good kitchen safety instead to keep you and your family healthy.
Here are some bad kitchen habits that are definitely worth quitting:
Defrosting meat & poultry on the countertop:
Harmful microorganisms multiply quickly at room temperature, and leaving meat and poultry to defrost on the countertop overnight allows millions or even billions of microorganisms to flourish. Defrost meat in the refrigerator overnight instead, and you can also submerge it in water provided it’s in a leak-proof package. Make sure you change the water every 30 minutes.
Rinsing meat in the sink:
Washing meat could spread germs around your sink. When rinsing meat or poultry in the sink before cooking, water splashes everywhere, contaminating everything including dishes in the sink and countertops. According to US Department of Agriculture guidelines, it’s best never to rinse meat and poultry in the sink. Instead, cook them to the proper temperature to ensure that any harmful bacteria are destroyed
Not washing reusable grocery bags: Raw meat, chicken and eggs can leave potentially harmful bacteria inside grocery bags. And those bacteria can be transferred to produce if the same bag is reused without being cleaned. So, try to wash your grocery bags frequently. Clean cloth reusable bags with soap and warm water or toss them in the washing machine. Plastic-coated bags can be wiped with antibacterial wipes or spray.
Using the same cutting board:
Slicing fresh fruit or vegetables on the same cutting board you have used to cut raw meat, chicken or fish can lead to illness. There is a high chance of transferring disease-causing microorganisms from the raw meat to the fresh vegetables or fruit as a result. So, either use two separate cutting boards instead, or wash your cutting board with hot water and soap in between different uses.
Returning leftovers to the fridge:
Illness-causing bacteria can grow rapidly on food that sits out at room temperature for over two hours. If food is left out in temperatures ranging between 32 and 40 degrees C, then one hour is long enough for the bacteria to thrive.
Toss food out that has sat at room temperature for over two hours or for more than one hour if temperatures exceed 40 degrees C.
Using contaminated sponges:
Don’t clean dirty dishes with the same sponge you use to wipe up spills or clean the counter top, as these sponges can transfer bacteria from one surface to another. Think about microwaving sponges for two minutes, which will destroy more than 99 per cent of germs. When microwaving, be sure the sponge is wet and allow it to cool before removing it from the microwave. You can also run sponges through your dishwasher.
Storing raw meat over fresh fruit and vegetables:
Raw meat, chicken or fish can drip onto fresh fruit and vegetables or other ready-to-eat foods stored below them in the fridge, and this can potentially lead to illness, especially if you aren’t cooking the foods. So, store raw meat, chicken or fish at the bottom of the fridge and keep them in a shallow pan in case they drip.
Putting cutting knives in the dishwasher:
The harsh cleaning cycle of your dishwasher can dull sharp cutting blades. Wash them by hand to prolong their life.
Storing the wrong foods in the fridge:
Don’t store fresh ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, onions and apples in the fridge. While cold storage is absolutely necessary for many foods, the fridge air can have a negative impact on some ingredients, causing them to spoil and go rotten more quickly.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly