When to Say When: Is it Safe to Eat?

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 Food safety starts at home, where you can decrease you and your family's risk of contracting a foodborne illness significantly. The CDC's new, four-step process helps consumers ensure their family's meals stay safe.

  • ·Clean: Hands, utensils and cutting boards all harbor bacteria. Wash hands in warm, soapy water before and after handling food, particularly meats and eggs. Be sure to wash utensils in hot, soapy water after each use, and use a bleach solution to sanitize cutting boards.
  • ·Separate: Use different cutting boards, plates and utensils for meats, poultry, seafood and eggs than you would for ready-to-eat foods and fruits and vegetables. Separate these items from one another when you buy them in the grocery store and when you get home and put them in the refrigerator.
  • ·Cook: A food thermometer is the only way to determine whether or not food has reached a safe temperature. Nelken says those who rely on eyeballing food or touching it to gauge doneness are risking illness. "It's important to verify that food such as chicken reaches 165 degrees in order to kill pathogens such as salmonella."
  • ·Chill: Refrigerating foods promptly after serving is key to slowing the bacteria from multiplying. Never leave foods out for more than two hours, and shorten that time to one hour in warmer conditions like summer.

 A few more tips on how to chill – and we're not talking about relaxing. A food thermometer isn't the only temperature gauge you need in your kitchen. Nelken advises every home to have a temperature gauge in the refrigerator to ensure foods stay at 40 degrees or cooler. This temperature is the safest for foods, and up to 85 percent of household refrigerators don't have them, Nelken says.