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9 Common Food Safety Mistakes That Can Make You Sick

1. Thawing Meat On The Counter
Even if you’re in a hurry, it’s never a good idea to thaw meat by simply setting it out on the counter! It will quickly reach the danger zone where bacteria thrive, and it can quickly become unsafe to eat.

There are a few ways to thaw meat safely: in the fridge, in cold water, and in the microwave. Meat thawed in the fridge can be kept there for a day or two before cooking, while meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

However, the USDA did recently add thawing trays to their list of safe ways to thaw frozen food. Thawing trays can thaw food much faster at room temperature than without one, so most food is thawed well before the 2-hour requirement.

2. Putting Cooked Meat Back On The Same Plate
This food safety faux pas is particularly common at cookouts and barbecues! Someone will bring meat out to the grill on a plate or platter, then put the cooked meat back onto that same plate.

This is a big no-no because any plate that held raw meat can harbor bacteria until you wash it! Having one less plate to wash after dinner isn’t worth the risk of getting someone sick.

3. Rinsing Raw Meat
If you’re concerned about bacteria on your raw meat, all you have to do is cook it thoroughly! Rinsing or washing the meat before cooking it will only spread bacteria around your sink and kitchen.

4. Not Using A Thermometer
Different foods need to be cooked to different temperatures to kill harmful bacteria. And the only way to be sure you’re cooking something to the correct temperature is to use a thermometer!

Digital thermometers are much more affordable and accurate than they used to be! Grab my printable meat temperature reference guide as well and you’ll be good to go!

5. Relying On Sight & Smell
While your senses are useful tools, you can’t rely on sight or smell to tell if your food has harmful bacteria. Harmful bacteria can exist without affecting the it’s appearance and smell at all!

A more reliable way to determine food safety is by how long you’ve had it. Most raw meats should be cooked and eaten within 2-5 days, and most leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.

6. Not Washing Your Hands Enough
One of the most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness is also one of the easiest: washing your hands! Wash your hands with warm, soapy water often when you’re preparing and cooking food.

7. Cooling Leftovers Before Refrigerating
People often wait until their food has cooled completely before refrigerating leftovers. But this can put your food in the danger zone where bacteria can multiply.

Most leftovers can be refrigerated promptly, unless it is something particularly large and hot, like a big roast or a pot of soup. In these cases, you’ll want to split the food into several smaller containers before refrigerating.

8. Unsafe Fridge Practices
When it comes to storing food in your fridge, it’s important to consider where you’re placing things. Foods that need to be cooked in order to be safe should be stored on the bottom shelf of your fridge to avoid contamination.

Food that is already cooked or doesn’t require cooking should go on the upper shelves. And avoid storing milk or eggs in the refrigerator door, since this tends to be the warmest part of the fridge.

9. Not Washing Produce With Peels
While you may be diligent about washing your leafy greens and produce with edible peels, it’s equally important to wash produce without edible peels!

Unwashed produce may harbor bacteria on the outside. If you don’t wash it, the knife you use to cut it can transfer bacteria from the outer peel to the edible insides.