Kitchen Germs: How to Avoid Bacteria When Cooking
Quick tips to help keep bacteria and parasites out of your kitchen -- and your food.
Step 2: Reduce Kitchen Germs at the Store
Before you get ready to whip up something tasty, try these tips to help keep
bacteria at bay while you shop:
- Meat: Wrap It Up: Put any meat you buy into a plastic bag before
putting it in your cart. This keeps raw meat juices from dripping on the fresh
foods in your grocery cart.
- Juice: Don't buy a bloated juice bottle. Bloating is usually a sign
that at some point the juice hasn't been kept at the proper temperature and
it's now spoiled.
- Produce: Some produce can become contaminated with salmonella,
shigella, or E. coli during growing, harvesting, processing, storing, or
shipping. It's particularly important that you wash your spinach, lettuce,
tomatoes, sprouts, and melons before handling or cutting them.
- Canned Foods: You don't know where those cans have been, so wash the
tops with hot soapy water before you open them. If you don't, whatever
particles or bacteria linger on the lid will inevitably end up in the food as
the lid dips down into the can contents during opening.
- Perishables: If you have perishable groceries and you will be in the
car more than an hour, take a cooler along with some reusable ice blocks to
keep the cold food cold until you can get it into the refrigerator or
Step 3: Kitchen Germs and Food Prep
There's no reason to be scared of kitchen germs. Instead, be informed, and
develop safe food preparation habits.
- Wash Your Hands: Unwashed hands are the most common
cross-contamination agent between raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, unwashed
vegetables and ready-to-eat foods, according to a study on food handling
behaviors published in the Journal of the American Dietetic
Wash your hands longer and more often than you think you should. Scrub hands
together vigorously for at least 20 seconds with hot soapy water. It takes that
long for the soap and scrubbing to remove some of the germs.
- Cutting Boards: Invest in three colorful plastic cutting mats, with
one color for each type of food. For example, designate a green mat for cutting
fruits and vegetables, a white mat for cutting fish, and a red mat for cutting
up red meat products.
- Raw Meat: Don't let raw meat bacteria travel to other food in the
kitchen. Discourage cross-contamination by keeping the raw meat, and any
kitchen tool that comes in contact with it, completely separate from all the
- Defrosting and Marinating: Marinate meat in the refrigerator -- not
on the counter at room temperature. And defrost food the same way: in the
refrigerator. You can also defrost food under cold running water, or in the
microwave oven on the defrost setting.
- Eggs: Eating uncooked eggs presents a risk for Salmonella
Enteritidis. Eliminate the risk and kill the bacteria by cooking the egg or
egg-containing foods, or use pasteurized eggs. Egg-substitute products that you
buy in the store are generally pasteurized and therefore don't present a risk
if consumed uncooked.
- Wash Produce: Wash all fruits and vegetables under running water
before eating, cutting or cooking, unless they're packaged and marked
"prewashed." Produce with a tough outer skin, like melons and
cucumbers, can be scrubbed with a clean produce brush and warm soapy water
before you cut into them -- just in case there is bacteria on the
- Cook It Thoroughly: Finally, keep in mind that no matter what,
thoroughly cooking food helps destroy the bacteria.