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My wonderful mother was not a domestic diva. She knew nothing about cooking when she and Dad married.

“Your Grandfather wanted a homemade pie. I had no idea how to make it, but followed a recipe. I rolled the dough on newspaper, and the print disappeared after the pie baked.”

Then there was the split pea soup that hit the ceiling compliments of her pressure cooker. We laughed about that for years, but looking back, there were serious food safety errors. I remember her defrosting steak by opening the package and leaving the meat open to the air for hours on the counter. Then she would fry it in butter. It’s a wonder we lived (but that sure tasted good).

My January/February issue of Nutrition Action Health Newsletter (Center for Science in the Public Interest) had a great article, “Food Safety Faux Pas” by Caitlin Dow. Here are a few highlights.

  • You can’t trust your nose to determine if left-over food is safe to eat. When in doubt, throw out.
  • The government does not regulate expiration dates on food. “Best by” and “Sell by” dates do not mean the food is no longer good a few days later.
  • This one was new to me. Sanitize your moist kitchen sponge daily for two minutes in the microwave.
  • Don’t put frozen food in a slow cooker or use the “late start” feature if cooking will be delayed more than two hours. It puts food in the danger zone where bacteria will begin to grow absent the high temperature that kills the microbes.
  • Yes, you can refreeze thawed meat (as well as cooked meat).
  • Troubled by urinary tract infections (UTIs)? Lately, I’m discovering, from various sources, there is a connection between UTIs and bacteria in animal foods, especially chicken. Dr. Greger has brief video on this ( Nutrition Action Newsletter suggests we use separate cutting boards for raw animal products and other foods, like vegetables. One big take-away for me was that meat must be handled separately from other foods during meal preparation. Then wash hands and utensils thoroughly.
  • Hand washing is better than hand sanitizers. I was pleased to see this in the newsletter. I am wary about the chemicals in those sanitizers and often wondered if the bugs I’m eliminating aren’t less dangerous than the chemicals I’m exposing myself to. Hand washing should last 20 seconds to be thorough. Singing Happy Birthday twice (not fast) should do it.
  • Eating or playing with raw dough can expose you or your children to dangerous bacteria in the raw eggs and flour ingredients.

The majority of American are meat-eaters and chicken consumption is on the rise. (I would point out that SARS and the current Coronavirus are outcomes of the meat industry in China. They may be lax, but our meat industry is no shining example either. Deplorable living condition, antibiotic administration, waste removal issues, are just a few of our issues.)

Here’s a cautionary video from Dr. Greger.

There’s certainly more to “kitchen chemistry” than I had ever realized. All I remember from microbiology was “boil it for 20 minutes.”

Do you have any cooking/safety tips to share? Tales to tell?