Cleanliness Prevents Foodborne Illness

Cleanliness Prevents Foodborne Illness

Spring has long been the time of year for annual spring cleaning projects around our homes. However, when it comes to safe food handling, everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long.

You can’t see, taste or smell them. They’re little and they can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, sponges, countertops and food. They’re foodborne bacteria and if eaten, they can cause foodborne illness. The first step in preventing foodborne illness is to CLEAN – hands, surfaces and utensils.

Wash your hands, often, with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing or handling pets. For best results, use warm water to moisten hands, then apply soap and rub hands together for 20 seconds – sing Happy Birthday to yourself (or out loud!) twice - before rinsing thoroughly. If your hands have any kind of skin abrasion or infection, always use clean disposable gloves.

Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next food. When cooking, wash food thermometers after each use. Discard cutting boards that are excessively worn or cut – they are no longer cleanable and provide a good place for bacteria to grow.

Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. When done, you can throw the towel away. If you use cloth towels, do not “two-time” them – that is, using them to wipe up dirty surfaces and to dry your hands after washing. Wash cloth towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Sponges also provide a breeding ground for bacteria – wash often in your dishwasher. Keep pets, household cleaners, and other chemicals away from food and surfaces used for food.

Using a mixture of one teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per quart of water can provide some added protection against bacteria on surfaces. Using a spray bottle, wet the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels. Never use bleach or detergent to clean food. Bleach and other cleaners are not intended for consumption.

The information presented here is from the Fight BAC! food safety program created by the Partnership for Food Safety Education. For more information about food safety in the home, call the Fairfax County Health Department Food Safety Section at 703-246-2444, TTY 771. For more food safety information visit the Health Department's Food Safety Web page.

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