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10 Tips Spell Food Safety Success

Do you know the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick?

Hint : It only takes about 20 seconds.

Hint : Almost everyone can do it.

Hint : It's not expensive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the answer is "WASH YOUR HANDS."

Clean hands -- and clean cooking utensils and surfaces -- are your first defense against food-borne illness.

Like washing your hands, most of the things you can do to help prevent a food-borne illness are really easy. Here are 10 simple food safety tips, that together spell F-O-O-D S-A-F-E-T-Y.

Fight bacteria by washing your hands often. Wash for about 20 seconds with hot, soapy water BEFORE fixing or eating foods and AFTER using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling pets, coughing or blowing your nose.

Only thaw perishable food in the refrigerator or the microwave. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter. Cook food immediately after thawing in a microwave.

Order perishable takeout foods so they're delivered shortly before serving. Whether takeout or prepared at home, avoid letting foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, cut and/or peeled fruits and vegetables sit at room temperature longer than two hours.

Divide leftovers into small, shallow containers for rapid cooling in the refrigerator.

Set your refrigerator to run at 40°F and your freezer at 0°F to help stop harmful bacteria from growing. Keep an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator/freezer to monitor temperatures.

Avoid cross-contamination. Wash cutting boards, knives and other utensils in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood, and before using them for another item. Avoid placing cooked food on a plate that held these raw foods.

Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running tap water just before eating. This includes fruits and vegetables that you peel or cut, such as melons, oranges or cucumbers. Bacteria adheres to the surface of these and can be transferred to the part you eat when it is cut or peeled.

Eat foods that you know are safe. Most of the bacteria that commonly cause food-borne illness can't be seen, smelled or tasted. When in doubt, toss it out!

Take the temperature of perishable foods such as meat, poultry and seafood to assure harmful bacteria are destroyed. Cook hamburger and other ground meats (veal, lamb, and pork) to an internal temperature of 160 F and ground poultry to 165 F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts may be cooked to 145 F for medium rare and to 160 F for medium. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180 F as measured in the thigh; breast meat to 170 F. All cuts of pork should reach 160 F. Thoroughly cook fish until it is opaque and flakes with a fork.

Yolks and whites of eggs should be cooked until firm to avoid possible food-borne illness from salmonella . Store fresh eggs in their original carton and use within three weeks for best quality. Use hard-cooked eggs within one week -- do NOT return them to the egg carton for storage. Refrigerate them in a clean container.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.