Food poisoning cases always spike during the holidays, and this year will likely be no exception.
We forget that every holiday season introduces a whole new crop of newbie cooks who don't know, for example, that you never leave a frozen turkey out on the kitchen counter to thaw. Or that cooking a stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking the stuffing in a separate pan.
And, as experts at Consumer Reports point out, preventing food-borne illnesses starts before you even enter the kitchen.
Take those reusable grocery bags. They might be better for the environment, but they can be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.
Toss those reusable tote bags that you take grocery shopping into the washing machine every once and awhile. The juices from raw foods like meat and seafood can get into the fabric and then on your hands, increasing the chance of cross contamination.
It’s also important to keep raw meat refrigerated. But don't store raw meat on the top shelf of the fridge. Keep raw meat, chicken, seafood on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. That’s where it’s coldest. That also prevents any juices from dripping down onto other food in your refrigerator.
And be sure to check that your refrigerator is actually cold enough to prevent the spreading of bacteria. It’s safest to keep your refrigerator at a temperature at 37 degrees. You can check the temp using an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer.
Another common mistake people make is not washing their hands enough while cooking.
This can spread bacteria around the kitchen, onto spice containers, into raw salads, and especially onto to smartphones, tablets and laptops, which a lot of people use while cooking.
In fact, our electronic devices can be an unexpected sources of cross contamination, so try to keep your hands off your phone or other computers when you cook, and if you do use them, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after you touch them.
More common mistakes that can lead to food poisoning: placing cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat, rising raw poultry in the sink, which can spread bacteria and result in cross contamination, tasting foods that contain raw meat before the meat if fully cooked, and not replacing or sanitizing sponges and dishrags on a weekly basis.