Food Safety Tips and Tricks

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

As we continue to practice social distancing and follow safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have found ourselves spending a lot more time at home. Because of this, I myself have started to bring out the inner chef within me and have done a lot more cooking at home. While it is great that many of us have become more skilled in the kitchen, it is also important to remember to keep the basics of food safety and handling and in mind when preparing your home-cooked meals. Food safety goes far beyond the simple “wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water” and encompasses all the steps you may take while reaching that final cooked product. Today I’ll be sharing some basic food safety tips and tricks to help guide you in the kitchen and allow you to prepare delicious and nutritious home-cooked meals safely.

Grocery Shopping

  • Make sure to always double-check the expiration date on all items in your shopping cart
  • Be wary of items with visible dents, holes, or tears in their packaging
  • Keep any raw meat seafood, or poultry separate from other items in your cart to help avoid cross-contamination
  • Try to make cold/ refrigerated items the very last thing you toss into your cart
  • Make sure to inspect any produce for signs of spoilage or mold especially in pre-packaged/ pre-portioned bundles

Storage

  • Be sure to refrigerate any perishable items within 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90℉) of purchase
  • Make sure to allow cooked meals to completely cool down before storing them in the fridge and never immediately refrigerate hot foods
  • Hot foods should be stored in large, flat containers so they cool down more efficiently
  • Make sure to accurately label leftovers with the date they were cooked and stored

Food Preparation

  • Thaw frozen meats in the fridge and not at room temperature
  • Separate meat, poultry, and seafood during preparation and never use the same cutting board and utensils to prep meats and fresh produce
  • Make sure to thoroughly wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food

Cooking

  • Always follow the cooking directions on the packaging of food
  • Always reheat leftovers to at least 165℉ and bring all sauces and soups back to a boil
  • Make sure to cook raw meat, poultry, and egg products thoroughly and use a food thermometer to check if foods have been cooked to a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria

As busy college students, it is crucial to take necessary precautions during our grocery shopping, food handling, storage, and preparation to help drastically decrease the risk of foodborne illness. While it’s really easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of student life, it’s important to make sure we can do everything we can to keep ourselves safe during these crazy times.

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