As far as local evening news broadcasts go, few segments are as popular (and shocking) as the one in which an intrepid reporter reveals the health department inspection results of area restaurants. That Chinese restaurant down the street where your family eats at least once a month? Mold in the dishwasher and chicken stored at unsafe temperatures. Your favorite Mexican joint? Yep, vermin infestation.
Most people, understandably, gasp in horror at these reports and turn up their noses at any low-scoring establishment. But perhaps even more troubling is this thought: What grade would your kitchen receive if a health department inspector suddenly showed up at the door? You might not be serving crowds of people every day and have the responsibility of public health, but the cleanliness and safety of your kitchen do greatly affect your family's well-being.
You might think your kitchen is perfectly clean, but good kitchen sanitation is about more than appearances. Bacteria just love to live in room-temperature food, so you have to be extremely vigilant about food storage and refrigeration. And speaking of your fridge, do you know what temperature it is -- and what it should be? How often do you clear out not-so-fresh food? Do you know what cross-contamination is and how to avoid it?
Yes, this is a lot to think about -- and it can be a little overwhelming. It's a big responsibility to have your family's health on your hands. But we've made it easy for you. It's really just a matter of concentrating on three things: storage, preparation and cleaning. And even though you'll never be exposed on the evening news for having an unclean kitchen, at least now you'll be able to rest easy if the health department ever does come calling.