Kitchen sanitation isn't just about wiping off your counters or washing your hands after you handle raw chicken. If you want to keep everyone in your household clean, healthy and safe (and we think you do), focus your attention on these three main areas and follow these rules.
- Storage: Your fridge should be kept cooler than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the freezer should be at 0 degrees (check the temperature every three months). Go through the refrigerator once a week and toss out anything that's past its prime. Raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut produce should never sit out for more than two hours. Defrost food in cold running water or overnight in the refrigerator, never on the counter.
- Preparation and cooking: When you're preparing food, repeat this mantra: "Clean, separate, cook, chill." You need to not only keep raw meats separate from other foods, but also washed fruits and vegetables separate from unwashed produce -- and you should have different cutting boards for meats and produce.
- Cleaning: There's really no need for chemical cleaners in the kitchen (and you definitely shouldn't use them in the fridge). Lemon juice and distilled white vinegar can become your best friends for kitchen cleaning: Lemon juice neutralizes odors, vinegar is an amazing disinfectant and sanitizer, and both are great degreasers. A spray bottle of undiluted white vinegar is a handy-dandy multitasker, and a little bleach and water can also go a long way. And don't forget cleaning yourself: Wash, wash, wash your hands -- after handling raw poultry, sneezing, blowing your nose, using the bathroom, petting your dog, the list goes on. Always use warm water and soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
These are just the basics, of course -- for more detailed information on kitchen sanitation, feast your eyes on the links on the next page.