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Are you handling your food safely? One expert says probably not

Recent E. coli incidents involving romaine lettuce has brought renewed attention to food safety

cbc.ca, Jan. 6, 2018

You may not be handling your food as well as you think, says a New Brunswick food security and nutrition expert.

Janet Hamilton teaches food security and nutrition at Mapleton Teaching Kitchens in Moncton.

She said that while people seem to be aware of how important it is to handle meat carefully, that's not the case with produce.

"It's amazing how many people touch fruits and vegetables as soon as they walk in the door [of a grocery store]," she told CBC's Shift New Brunswick.

"It's very important that people wash their fruits and vegetables before they use them, and they tend to forget that."

The issue has been in the news recently, after several people became ill from E. coli contamination since mid-November from eating romaine lettuce. Two people died as a result.

Some restaurants even stopped serving it, and Sobeys took it off its shelves.

Washing tips
When it comes to washing lettuce, Hamilton recommends breaking it up, putting it in a colander or strainer, and then rinsing it with water over a bowl.

She also advised not to skip washing vegetables and fruit that have hard shells, such as melons, because once you cut into it, you could contaminate it from the outside.

Hamilton recommended scrubbing them with a brush before cutting.

"Even with turnips, squash, products like that, you want to scrub them before you cut them," she said.

Don't leave meat out for long
When it comes to meat, you really only have a four-hour window before you need to either cook or refrigerate it, she said. (TRAINCAN DOES NOT AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT. AFTER 2 HOURS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE DANGEROUS AMOUNTS OF BACTERIA CAN GROW. KEEP POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS FOODS OUT OF THE TEMPERATURE DANGER ZONE)

Any meat that's been out at room temperature for longer than that becomes very prone to bacteria. (THE FOUR HOUR RULE INCLUDES TIME FOR PREPARATION AND COOKING OVER 60░ C/140░ F. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCALE PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT OR REFER TO YOUR PROVINCIAL ACT/REGULATION FOR REQUIREMENTS IN YOUR JURISDICTION) 

"You actually have to start the clock of four hours as soon as you put it in your cart," said Hamilton.

She also recommended using a separate cutting board specifically for meat, and storing meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to prevent leakage.