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Kicking Germs to the Kitchen Curb

The arrival of spring is a great opportunity to toss out unneeded items and start fresh. One area of your home you shouldn’t overlook is the kitchen.

Approximately 200,000 Americans become sick due to food poisoning every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Foodborne illness can occur due to improper cooking or storage of leftovers.

Need to get a head start on cleaning your kitchen?

• Decode product dates. Look for expiration, sell by, best if used before or use by dates on condiments and commercially produced food items. If no date is available, look for the closed or coded date, which are numbers that indicate when the product was produced.

• Mark your calendar. To make cleaning easier, try setting a date to clean out the refrigerator of any suspect items, such as the night before the garbage is picked up.

• Label leftovers. Putting a date on leftovers will give you a guideline of if they’re okay to eat or if it’s time to toss them.

To make your kitchen a safe and healthy environment, be sure to follow safe food handling practices when cooking or handling uncooked food items.

“Always wash your hands before handling food in your kitchen,” says Katherine Rhodes, R.N., infection prevention coordinator at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth. “Also, be sure to wash your hands after handling raw meat and use a clean cutting board to avoid cross contamination between ingredients.”

Whether you’ve cooked dinner or hosted a social event at your house, be sure to properly store items within two hours of cooking them in airtight containers. While you may be tempted to combine items — such as salad and steak — these items will not be safe to consume for the same amount of time.

“When storing leftovers, store similar items together,” says Rhodes. “Also, be sure your refrigerator is set at 40 degrees or less.”

Consider yourself a food safety expert? Test your knowledge with our food safety quiz at

(Spring 2012)

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