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Be smart: Keep foods apart

October 17, 2000

Be smart: Keep foods apart



Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc. when they are not handled properly.

Cutting raw meat, poultry or fish on a cutting board and then slicing salad vegetables on the same cutting board - without first washing the board - is an example of how food can be exposed to bacteria through cross-contamination. This spreads bacteria, such as Salmonella, which are destroyed as raw meat cooks, to the salad vegetables - which won't be cooked. Cross-contamination happens in the kitchen more than one might think.

The results of a consumer survey by the federal government in 1998 showed 21 percent of cooks who fix the family's main meal did not wash their cutting boards after cutting raw meat. One-fourth did not wash their hands after handling raw meat and fish and two-thirds didn't wash their hands after handling raw eggs. Further, 61 percent of those who used a cloth or sponge to wipe kitchen counters changed them less than seven times per week. If cloths or sponges are used, they need to be changed frequently and washed in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

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Here are some helpful tips for preventing cross-contamination:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs - along with their juices - away from other foods in your shopping cart, on your kitchen counter and in your refrigerator.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or fresh fruits and vegetables. Although raw meats most often cause problems with cross-contamination, fresh fruits and vegetables can also carry bacteria.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A teaspoon of household bleach in a quart of water sanitizes surfaces and utensils.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Always use a clean cutting board. If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Replace cutting boards when they become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Always use a clean plate when serving foods. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that held raw food without first washing the plate or board.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Don't reuse sauce that was used to marinate raw meat, poultry or seafood on cooked food unless you boil the sauce first.

For information on handling and storing food safely, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, Md. 21713. Mark the envelope, "Safe."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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