10 food safety tips to keep germs out of your holiday meal

We all have our hang-ups when it comes to food. Some of us cringe when we watch someone else consume food that’s been on the floor. Others stop mid-chip when a guest double dips in the guacamole.

Public health and safety organization NSF International surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to learn about Americans’ biggest kitchen pet peeves. Some of the most interesting findings:

  • 78% of respondents are grossed out when guests douple dip. But talk about double standards:36% admitted to double dipping a utensil to taste food while they were cooking for others.

  • 43% say they have gotten sick or had an upset stomach after eating at a dinner party.

  • 8% have served something that fell on the floor.

  • 66% are most bothered when others use the dish towel for something other than drying dishes.

 

In order to keep your holiday free of germs, NSF has got you covered with these 10 safety tips.

1. Just say no to cross-contamination.

If you’re preparing a meal that includes meat or fish, make sure you wash your cutting board with hot soapy water between each use. Or use a different cutting board for foods like fruits and vegetables.

 

2. Keep your sponges and dishcloth out of the sink.

Sponges and dishcloths can contain coliform bacteria, a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli, according to an NSF International Germ Study. Allow sponges to dry between uses, or microwave wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day. Wash dishcloths in a washing machine on the hot cycle with bleach. And replace both often.

 

3. Wash your hands — A LOT.

Use warm soapy water and scrub 20 seconds before and after handling food.

 

4. Clean kitchen utensils with hot soapy water after each use.

NSF’s "Germ Study" found Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold on various appliances, including blender gaskets and can openers, which were not cleaned and dried after being used.

 

5. Dry kitchen appliances and utensils before storing.

Putting away wet appliances and utensils is basically like putting out a welcome mat for germs. Wash with warm soapy water and then thoroughly air dry.

 

6. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Perishables should never sit out at room temperature for more than two hours — and their temperatures should never reach above 40ºF. Store cold items in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Use ice trays or bowls to help keep them cool. Use warming dishes or keep hot foods stored in the oven.

 

7. No double dipping.

Your houseguest is not just being a germaphobe. Double dipping — with either you fingers, utensils or chips — can spread germs. This goes for taste-testing your recipes as well. If you go in for a taste, grab a clean utensil to continue cooking.   

 

8. Don’t wash your chicken or turkey.

Washing raw poultry can spread bacteria onto your countertops, dishes or other food. All you need to do is cook your bird at the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to make sure your poultry is thoroughly cooked through.

 

9. Never cook while sick.

This should go without saying, but don’t cough or sneeze onto food.

 

10. Keep separate towels for drying hands and dishes.

To avoid cross-contamination, keep the towel you use to dry your dishes separate from the towel intended for drying hands. By using the same towel, you risk spreading the germs from the hand towel onto your clean dishes.

 

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