4 Steps to Safe Food Handling
It seems so very wrong. The very fruits and vegetables you are eating to be healthy can make you deathly ill. You've seen it in the headlines - E. coli on spinach, Listeria on sliced melon and Salmonella on shelled hazelnuts. The Food and Drug Administration spent a good deal of time early last year investigating three different alfalfa sprout illness outbreaks.

The major contributing factors - factory farms and improper food handling - are not going away any time soon. Consumers are left needing to learn the rules of safe food handling. Your life may depend on it.

There are four basic guidelines for food safety according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture.

1. Clean - Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after touching food and keep preparation surfaces clean. Wash fruit and veggies well, especially when eating raw.

2. Separate - Don't cross-contaminate, keep meats away from produce and anything you will be consuming without cooking.

3. Cook - Cook to proper temperatures:

  • Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops to 145 °F
  • All cuts of pork to 160 °F
  • Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F
  • All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F

4. Chill - Refrigerate food promptly at 40 °F or lower; freeze at 0 °F or lower

Chickens can spread salmonella so you don't want chicken blood dripping on your salad or all over your counters. Eggs also need to be handled carefully. Refrigerated fresh eggs can keep up to five weeks. Only the whites can be frozen for up to a year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a new consumer Web site at www.foodsafety.gov. The site offers the latest information on how to handle your food safety and announces food recalls when others have not followed the rules.