Win the fight against kitchen germs by being extra careful with your storage, cleaning, food preparation, and shopping practices. Here's how.

kitchen counter
  1. Sad but true: Even the cleanest-looking kitchen may be full of bacteria, such as staphylococcus (spread by hand contact) and salmonella (spread by contact with undercooked meat or poultry). Thankfully, the No. 1 preventive measure is simple: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food -- particularly when handling raw meat, poultry, or eggs. And keep in mind that a quick rinse is not enough. Scrub your hands in hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, rinse them clean, and dry them with a paper towel or clean cloth.
  2. Dishcloths and sponges may spread bacteria instead of removing it. Wash dish towels in your washing machine's hot cycle after every use. Let sponges air-dry and replace them frequently; odor is a sign of bacteria.
  3. Make the supermarket your last stop when running errands. And in the store, pick out your refrigerated and frozen foods last. In summer, you may want to keep an ice chest or cooler in the car for perishable foods if you drive more than 30 minutes.
  4. Never buy expired food or food in dented or bulging cans. Select frozen foods from below the frost line or load line of the display case (a line is marked on freezers to indicate safety level).
  5. Set your home refrigerator(s) at 40 degrees F or lower and freezer at 0 degrees F.
  6. Never thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Instead, thaw frozen foods in covered containers in the refrigerator, or in a sink filled with cold water that's replaced every 30 minutes. You can also use the defrost setting on a microwave oven.
  7. Sanitize cutting boards with fresh bleach. If you use wood, purchase hard maple, not soft wood. Sand wood to remove scratches that harbor bacteria. Then seal the cutting board by adding oil as directed by the manufacturer.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Use containers that provide a large, flat surface, which lets foods chill quickly.
  9. Use paper towels, not cloths or sponges, to wipe up meat juices. Throw away the soiled paper towels immediately.
  10. Clean food-preparation surfaces with hot, soapy water; rinse thoroughly, then sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 quart cold water. Or use a commercial product tested and formulated for food-contact surfaces. Check labels to follow correct use.


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