Spring Clean Your Kitchen to "Be Food Safe"

As you spring clean your closets, cars, and garages, don't forget to give your kitchen – especially refrigerators and freezers where raw meat, poultry, and seafood is stored - a thorough cleaning as well.

This is a good time of year to use or throw out items that are losing their quality or have spoiled, as well as to check for unnoticed spills and remove lingering odors. Cleaning out your freezer requires extra care and can create new messes, so follow this simple steps to help you spring clean your kitchen, prevent cross contamination, and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Clean

Bacteria can be transferred by hands, cutting boards, and knives and quickly spread to all kitchen surfaces. Frequent cleaning can keep that from happening.

Keep counter tops clean by washing with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Keep your refrigerator clean at all times. Wipe up spills immediately and clean surfaces thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse them well.

If spoiled food has left an odor in your refrigerator or freezer, wash and sanitize shelves, crispers, and ice trays, as well as the door as gasket. Leave the door open for about 15 minutes to all free air to circulate.

Sanitize surfaces and utensils with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Separate

Cross contamination is the spread of bacteria from one surface to another and it is especially likely to take place when thawing or preparing raw meat, poultry and seafood. Any bacteria that may be on frozen meat, poultry or fish can become active upon thawing and cause illness if food is not handled safely.

Keep fresh and frozen raw meat and any juices that may leak from them away from already cooked food or fresh produce. Thaw and store raw meat, poultry and seafood in a container or on a plate in the refrigerator so juices can’t drip on other foods. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use another for salads and ready-to-eat foods.

Wash cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each use. Rinse with clean water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards and solid wood boards can be washed in a dishwasher.

Replace cutting boards that are excessively worn or have developed hard to clean grooves where bacteria can live.

Always use clean plates and utensils. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.

Cook

Even for experienced cooks, the improper heating and preparation of food means illness-causing bacteria can survive. Meat, poultry and seafood should be cooked to a safe internal temperature to be sure bacteria that may be present is destroyed.

Know the safe internal temperature of each dish you are preparing. See the Food Handling and Storage Tips section for more information on cooking temperatures.

Use a food thermometer to make sure food has reached the correct internal temperature. To ensure accuracy of the food thermometer, follow the package instructions or calibrate kitchen thermometers. After use, carefully wash food thermometers by hand with hot soapy water. Do not immerse them in water.

When microwaving, stir, rotate the dish, and cover food to prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive. If food spills in the microwave, wipe it up immediately and clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water.

Chill

Bacteria grow fastest at temperatures between 40 F-140 F, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Cool the fridge to 40oF or below and use an appliance thermometer to make sure the temperature does not rise.

Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours, making sure to divide food into shallow containers for rapid cooling.

Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter and don’t over stuff the fridge.

Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage is 4 days for cooked leftovers, 3 to 5 days for raw steaks, roasts and chops of red meat, and 1 to 2 days for raw poultry ground meats and fish.