It’s that time of year. Your to-do list is a mile long. Finding time to cook is tough. Sometimes you don’t even have time to sit down to eat! It’s easy to slip up and make food safety mistakes.
What you really don’t have time for? Getting sick. That would totally ruin your plan to cross items on your list, as well as perhaps cost you a trip to the doctor. Steer clear of these top food safety mistakes to keep your family healthy and happy this holiday season!
- Keeping things neat but not clean. It’s pretty easy to pick up the house so it looks clean. But you may not have the chance to sterilize sponges, wash dishtowels or the sink (which is apparently is the dirtiest spot in the home!) Stock up on sponges and change them out frequently. Make a mental note to sterilize your sponge every time you do your daily _____. Maybe it’s when you’re making your coffee, or take out the trash. Stick a wet cellulose sponge in the microwave for 1 minute. If it’s a scrubber sponge, make it 2. According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, that’s the second best way to sanitize a sponge. The best way? Soak it in a bleach solution for 5 minutes. The recommended bleach solution is 3/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. To make a smaller amount? Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to 10 oz of water–that’s 1 1/4 cup. If laundry is the last thing on your list, buy a stock of hand and dish towels so you have enough without doing a wash for a while. During the holiday meal when lots of people are drying their hands, change the towels often. Or, ask your guests to use paper towels for their hands.
- Losing track of leftovers. You’re busy and juggling too many things. How can you possibly remember when hubby bought that rotisserie chicken? Was it over the weekend? Or before that? Ditto with deli meat. It spoils pretty quickly and it’s easy to lose track of, especially hidden in the deli drawer. Here’s a simple way to label leftovers–grab a sharpie! Quickly date prepared foods when you buy or open them. For leftover containers, simply put a piece of scotch tape on top and then date it! Easy-peasy. Check out this chart to see how long it’s safe to keep food, from FoodSafety.gov.
- Not cooking long enough. This is probably the most common of food safety mistakes. When is it done? When the food thermometer says so. Don’t scratch your head any longer, trying to figure out when the roast is ready to serve. Get a quick-read thermometer. Check out this link for Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures.
- Having Too many cooks. You know that spoils the broth…but it could add up to more food safety mistakes! When you have too many people in the kitchen, you don’t know if they practice the same clean cooking techniques that you do. Do they wash their hands after touching their nose, or even before handling food for the first time? If you’re not sure about your company, think of ways they can help without actually touching the food. For example, pouring nuts into serving dishes or uncorking and serving the wine. And if someone shows up with the the sniffles and wants to help? Tell them their job is to get well and sit them well away from the food prep!
- Disrespecting the two-hour time limit. Time flies when you’re having fun. So it’s easy to keep that cheese and sausage tray out for 4, maybe 5 hours without noticing! Ditto for that Chocolate Soufflé or Crème Brûlé. Same goes even for fruit and veggie trays. (Did you know that many food borne illness outbreaks are from fresh produce?) The reality is, food can begin growing enough bacteria to get you sick after being at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour when it’s 90 degrees or more, such as at your Fourth of July cookout.) Make appetizer trays small so they can be exchanged for another one you keep in the fridge. For a buffet, keep the cold desserts cold until people are ready for them. You can keep food hot by using a warming dish like this or a crock pot, and cold food cold by keeping on ice or using special dishes like this one .
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