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15 Ways to Make Your Food Safer

Food Safety Strategies From the Market to the Table

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"The assumption that the imported products are unsafe is absolutely not true," Pillai says. "In fact, there are as many outbreaks associated with foods grown in the United States. So blaming it on imported products, I think, is a cop-out."

2. Map your supermarket route. Don't cruise the store aisles aimlessly. Gather nonperishable items first, fresh or frozen goods last. That strategy minimizes the time that perishable goods sit in your shopping cart instead of in a freezer or refrigerator.

3. Be choosy. Select fresh produce that isn't bruised or damaged. Check that eggs aren't cracked. Look for a clean meat or fish counter and a clean salad bar. Don't buy bulging or dented cans, cracked jars, or jars with loose or bulging lids. If fresh-cut produce (such as half a watermelon or bagged salad mixes) is on your shopping list, choose those that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

4. Pack it up. At the grocery store, bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry, and seafood products.

Bring an ice chest to keep frozen or perishable items if it will take more than an hour to get those items home.

No ice chest? If it's hot outside, put the groceries in the air-conditioned passenger area of your car instead of putting them in the trunk, which may not have air-conditioning.

5. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash your cutting boards, countertops, refrigerator, pots, and utensils regularly in hot, soapy water, especially after they've been in contact with raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

6. Check your cutting boards. They shouldn't have lots of cracks and crevices where bacteria can lurk.

7. Sanitize. The FDA recommends periodically sanitizing your cutting boards, countertops, and kitchen sink drain with a homemade mixture of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.

Sponges and dishcloths can house bacteria, so wash them weekly in hot water in the washing machine.

8. Store your food properly. Refrigerate frozen and perishable items as soon as possible.

Don't store foods near household chemicals or cleaning products. Some produce -- like onions and potatoes -- don't need to go in the refrigerator, but don't store them under the sink, where they could be damaged by leaky pipes.

9. Check the refrigerator and freezer temperature. Set the refrigerator temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, set the freezer to zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Use a refrigerator thermometer to check those temperatures periodically.

10. Wash your hands. Before you handle food, lather up with soap and hot water, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Repeat after handling produce, meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

11. Wash fruits and vegetables in running water. A small scrub brush may help, but don't use soap or other detergents to wash produce.

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