Four Quick Tips for Keeping the Kitchen Safe - U of I Extension

News Release

Four Quick Tips for Keeping the Kitchen Safe


September 10, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate every year 1 in 6 Americans becomes sick from food. Although the number of people getting sick from foodborne illness may be much higher. Lisa Peterson, Nutrition & Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, explains “Symptoms can feel like those of the stomach flu or a stomachache and may go unreported.” Nausea, diarrhea, fever, chills, cramps, vomiting, and exhaustion are all common symptoms of foodborne illness. In celebration of food safety education month this September, Peterson offers four quick tips to prevent foodborne illness:

Wash hands. A recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture, found 97% of Americans do not wash their hands before eating. Handwashing is one of the easiest ways to prevent foodborne illness. Wet hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds or sing the happy birthday song twice, rinse, and dry with a clean towel.

Clean the refrigerator regularly. “Wipe up spills in the refrigerator as they happen, and try to clean the drawers at least once a month,” Peterson advises. A study by the National Sanitation Foundation found the vegetable drawer tested positive for yeast, mold, Listeria, and Salmonella. Use a soft cloth or sponge, warm water, and a mild dishwashing liquid to clean drawers. Remove odor from vegetable drawers by mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of warm water.

Keep a food thermometer in the kitchen and use it. One in four hamburgers turns brown before reaching a safe internal temperature. Color is not a sign of safety. The USDA study found only one-third of participants used a food thermometer to test doneness and half did not cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160°F. “Treat a food thermometer as you would a spatula or frying pan. A tool is needed to flip a burger, and a tool is needed to make sure the burger is safe to eat,” Peterson notes. Not only is cooking food to the minimum internal temperatures the best way to destroy harmful bacteria, but one of the latest studies by University of Illinois also found pork was tastier, juicer, and more tender when cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145°F.

When in doubt, throw it out, or call the local Extension office. It’s less expensive to toss a questionable piece of turkey, than cover health care costs from foodborne illness. Peterson explains, “The scary part about harmful foodborne pathogens is, we can’t see, smell, or taste them. Mold on bread is a clue for spoilage, but the invisible pathogenic bacteria is more likely to cause sickness.” A helpful option for monitoring food storage is the free USDA Foodkeeper mobile app. The app provides food storage suggestions for the refrigerator, pantry, and freezer.

Celebrate food safety month every month of the year. Be mindful of food safety when storing, and preparing food. For food safety, food storage, or food preservation questions contact the local Extension office.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.  If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact our office. Universidad de Illinois ofrece igualdad de oportunidades en programas y empleo. Si usted necesita un ajuste razonable para participar en este programa, por favor póngase en contacto con nuestra oficina.



Pull date: November 30, 2022