Safely Handling Meats to Avoid Foodborne Illnesses
Anyone who has ever had food poisoning knows what a miserable experience that is. For anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to experience food poisoning, consider yourself lucky. Food poison is not a fun way to spend your day, and it can be dangerous. It's impossible to spot foodborne illness because you can't see, smell […]
Anyone who has ever had food poisoning knows what a miserable experience that is. For anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to experience food poisoning, consider yourself lucky. Food poison is not a fun way to spend your day, and it can be dangerous. It's impossible to spot foodborne illness because you can't see, smell or taste them. The government can't regulate and keep meat products safe in the home, but you can by following some simple guidelines:

- Wash your hands and any surfaces meat has touched often.

- Don't cross-contaminate your meats.

- Cook meats to their proper temperatures.

- Refrigerate all meats immediately.

Let's look at these guidelines in further detail.

Clean

When I work with meats, I wash everything constantly, especially my hands. Always wash hands in hot, soapy water before and after touching meats as well as all surfaces the meat has been on. Washing hands before handling meats will help prevent adding bacteria to meats. Cleaning and washing hands and surfaces immediately after handling will help eliminate bacteria that is laying around quickly. You don't want to accidentally put your fingers in your mouth after touching meat, or after touching a surface that meat has been on. Additionally, you don't want to spread the bacteria to other areas or people.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

One thing I do when preparing meats and other foods is to use a separate cutting board for the meats, especially when working with chicken. This helps prevent cross-contamination. In addition, you should also wash utensils that have cut meat before using them to cut something else. Don't just rinse them. You should use hot, soapy water with these items as well. Cleaning your grill surface after meat has been cooked on it will also help you avoid cross-contaminating other foods.

Cook to Proper Temperature

All meats have specific temperatures that you should cook them to. Having a cooking thermometer on hand will help you in knowing when meat has reached the proper temperature. The suggested internal temperature for most meats is 165 degrees. This is medium done for most meats, with the exception of chicken which needs to be cooked completely to avoid illness.

Chill

Meat should always be chilled immediately to prevent bacteria from growing. In fact, temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are considered the "danger zone" because this is the range in which bacteria grow most rapidly. Keep meats cold at a temperature below 40 degrees and do not leave out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. Of course, when temperatures reach 90 degrees you shouldn't leave meats out longer than 1 hour.

Follow these simple rules and you should be able to avoid nasty foodborne illnesses.

USDA

Meat safety.org

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