The cold is still upon many states, but spring is indeed officially here. And, along with spring comes the obligatory—and dreaded—spring cleaning. Most of us think of getting our homes dusted and detailed during this whirlwind of bleach and scrubbies, but, during National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), along with ConAgra Foods, is encouraging Americans to think about how giving the kitchen a complete and thorough cleaning can help reduce chances of food poisoning later down the road.
Many of us will throw things into the freezer or fridge, and there it will remain for weeks, sometimes months at a time, pushed into a dark corner and forgotten. But, Karen Ansel, registered dietician nutritionist and AND spokesperson hopes that people will take the challenge of spring cleaning to these important areas, as well. “Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to give the kitchen a good food safety check and cleaning, especially refrigerators and freezers where raw meat, poultry and seafood is stored.”
Ansel has also shared some simple steps from HomeFoodSafety.org to minimize the risk of food poisoning by reducing cross-contamination in the kitchen. The three areas of cleaning she emphasizes are kitchen surfaces, the fridge and checking for foods that need to be thrown out.
“Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around the kitchen, not just on hands alone,” Ansel says. “Unless people wash their hands, utensils and surfaces the right way, they could unintentionally spread bacteria to their food and family.” Here are some suggestions:
- Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Clean surfaces and utensils with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
- Keep kitchen surfaces such as appliances, countertops, cutting boards and utensils clean with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Keeping cutting boards and surfaces clean, and following proper sponge safety, helps prevent cross-contamination.
“Everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long to reduce cross-contamination, including the refrigerator,” Ansel says. “Spring is the perfect time to clean up and set regular cleaning routines.” Here are some suggestions:
- Check that the refrigerator temperature is set to below 40° F.
- Keep the refrigerator clean at all times; this is a good time to look for unnoticed spills and remove lingering odors. Wipe up spills and clean surfaces with hot, soapy water and rinse them well.
- To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf. Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives, and any cleansers that may impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes, or cause damage to the interior finish of your refrigerator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
“Whether in the pantry or refrigerator, it’s important to make sure food items haven’t spoiled,” Ansel says. “Remember – when in doubt, toss it out!” Here are some suggestions:
- This is a good time of year to use or throw away foods that are losing their quality or have spoiled, for both refrigerated items and non-refrigerated items in the pantry.
- Make spring the time to begin new food safety habits. Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten.
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