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Environmental Health & Safety

Food Safety at Home

The warm summer months in Rochester provide a wonderful time of year for picnics and BBQ's. However, it's also a time when food handlers (both professionally and home makers) make mistakes that can lead to contaminated food and subsequent food borne illness. Harmful bacteria love summer time temperatures to grow, adding another risk this time of year. In addition, food from the three F's (farms, factories and foreign lands) provide addition risks as it seems more and more food from these three sources may be contaminated in the first place. Sometimes there are things you can do to reduce or eliminate these risks. Here are some quick tips commencing with the flow of food sequence from Purchase through Clean up:

  • Purchase food from licensed, reputable suppliers and select your purchased items with an "inspector's eye". Start by looking for the obvious such as expiration codes, off-color or texture, damaged packaging such as bloated/severely dented cans, frozen food with ice crystals, ripped ingredient bags, etc.
  • Ensure you get your perishable (called "potentially hazardous") food home quickly and into the refrigerator or freezer as quickly as possible. Try not to make other stops with the food in a hot car or trunk.
  • Ensure your refrigerator is working properly and turned to a setting that maintains your perishable food at 45°F or below. The only way to ensure this to keep an accurate thermometer in your refrigerator and check it regularly.
  • Avoid cross contamination in the refrigerator by storing your raw foods on shelving below ready-to-eat foods and each kind of raw food should be separated so no juices flow from one to another. Good packaging and a clean pan stored underneath each one is a good practice.
  • Wash hands with plenty of soap and warm water for 20 seconds, rinse thoroughly, and use a disposable paper towel for hand drying. Hand sanitizers should not take the place of soap and water when it comes to food preparation.
  • Do not prepare food for others if you know you have a disease transmittable through food or if you are experienced symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or a severe sore throat with fever.
  • Always keep raw and ready to eat foods separate when preparing them.
  • Bring out the perishable food in small batches and only when you will be working with it. Get it served, cooked or placed back in the refrigerator quickly if it will be served at a different time.
  • Never thaw foods on the counter top. If you don't have time to thaw in the refrigerator, put the food in a clean pan in the sink and allow cold running water to do the job.
  • When preparing food in the kitchen, start with clean and sanitary equipment such as knives and cutting boards. Dishwashers generally get hot enough (170°F) in their final rinse to sanitize, but if washing dishes by hand, it's not a bad idea to put them in a very diluted solution of bleach (50ppm to 100ppm chlorine concentrate = approximately 1/8 to 1/4 ounce (3/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons) of household bleach in a gallon of water) in room temperature water for 1 minute after washing. You do not need to rinse off the bleach at that concentration.
  • Wash your veggies and even the outside of the melons with a vegetable wash. After cutting up melons and tomatoes, keep the cut product cold until consumption.
  • When cooking, ensure the foods reach the minimum required temperature and time to kill any harmful pathogens. However, some pathogens produce toxins that cannot be killed even by proper cooking.
  • When grilling, always use a clean pan or plate to bring in the cooked food.
  • If hot food will not be served shortly after cooking, find a way to hold it at 140°F until serving.
  • Cold perishable foods should be kept at 45°F or below in coolers and ice when not serving right away such as would be the case when going on a picnic.
  • If saving hot leftovers;, it is CRITICAL to cool it rapidly in shallow pans left uncovered in the refrigerator until the food temperature drops to 45°F or below. Reduce the size of the mass and let the heat escape by leaving it uncovered.
  • For clean-up in the kitchen, use soap to clean up the visible food matter and again surfaces in contact with food should also be sanitized with the concentration of bleach water as described above or in a dishwasher.
  • Use clean towels/rags for cleaning surfaces, not used sponges which could harbor and even grow harmful bacteria.
  • Lastly, when in doubt...throw it out!

    Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

    This page last updated 6/21/2016. Disclaimer.