Quick food safety quiz: Do you skip the urge for a quick taste with your stirring spoon? Do you wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and between food prep tasks? Do you thaw food in the fridge, not on the counter? Saying “yes” indicates that you follow kitchen rules for home food safety.
Perhaps surprisingly, most foodborne illness in the United States results from poor food handling in the home kitchen! Being clean and careful as you handle, prepare and store food protects against the mild to severe symptoms that seem like flu, but come from foodborne illness. The World Health Organization deems food safety, from farm to fork, so important that they chose the theme, “Is Your Food Safe?” as this year’s public health focus for World Health Day.
Being food safe can be summed up in four words: clean, separate, cook, and chill.* A great time to practice is when you prepare pasta meals. So some food safety rules:
- Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often.
- Wash fresh produce carefully – even if you plan to peel it. For Creamy Garlic and Avocado Primavera, rinse the cherry tomatoes, scallions and parsley under running water to remove soil and germs; scrub the avocados (like other thick- or rough-skinned veggies) with a brush, too.
- Wash the lid before opening the can. Easy Pantry Tuna Penne combines two convenient pantry foods, canned tuna and tomatoes with other on-hand ingredients.
- Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate
- Use two cutting boards for raw meat and poultry, and for fresh fruits and vegetables. Otherwise bacteria can spread from one to the other. When making Steakhouse Pasta Salad or Stir-fry with Linguine, Beef and Vegetables, use one board to slice raw beef, another clean cutting board for fresh tomatoes and broccoli.
- Use a clean plate and fork for taking cooked food from the grill. That way germs don’t spread from raw to cooked meat or chicken. That’s good advice when grilling chicken breasts for Southwest Grilled Chicken and Corn Pasta Salad.
- Cook: Cook Food to a Proper Temperature
- Cook meat, poultry, and fish until done. When cooking Chicken Piccata with Angel Hair, cook chicken breasts to an inside temperature of 165°F; check with a food thermometer.
- Reheat leftovers for food safety. Use a food thermometer to make sure any leftover pasta dish or sauce reach 165°F. In a microwave oven, rotate the food midway; allow for standing time.
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
- Refrigerate perishable leftovers within 2 hours of cooking (or 1 hour if the temperature is over 90°F). Without refrigerating, illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods fast! For a large portion, perhaps Traditional Lasagna or Vegetable Lasagna, divide the leftover into two smaller containers to chill faster. Enjoy eating it within 3 to 5 days.
- Keep cold foods cold. Taking pasta salads, such as New England Lobster Pasta Salad and Chicken, Tomato, Green Bean and Pasta Salad, on a picnic? Bacteria grow fast in warm outside temperatures. So keep these delicious salads in a cold cooler, in a cool place, until serving time.
Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RDN, CFCS, with more ways to eat smart for good heath!