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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Keep Your Food and Your Family Safe

A handful of clean, fresh vegetables. With the growing number of food contamination outbreaks this past year; you may be wondering how you can keep your food and family safe. Paying attention to the news is your first step so you are aware of any new recalls or outbreaks, how can you tell if those foods and leftovers you have buried in your fridge at home are safe to eat? According to a survey, nearly 2/3 consumers use their eyes or nose to decide whether to eat a questionable refrigerated food. Well it turns out that according to food safety experts, eyeballing and sniffing just detects the presence of spoilage -- not necessarily food pathogens.

Most of the organisms in food that can make you sick do not stink or create slime. Even if you are paying attention to the “best if used by” or “sell by” dates on perishable foods, those actually do not tell you whether a food is safe but just how long the food is expected to last. So what can you do? Follow these food safety tips when evaluating the food in your fridge:


  • Avoid moldy foods: If a food has visible mold on it, discard it immediately. Mold spots on porous foods such as bread or soft foods with high moisture content such as soft cheeses, yogurt, or lunch meats can even be contaminated below the surface. It’s not a good idea to sniff food that has visible mold on it either since mold can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.


  • Follow food recalls: With the growing number of food recalls this year, it is so important to pay attention to the news and look for those products in your home. Although six out of seven Americans say they pay attention to the news, only 59% say they actually have ever looked for a recalled product in their home according to a 2009 survey. To keep on recalls, check out this site.


  • Know what to do when the power goes out: If you experience a bad thunderstorm where your power happens to go out, make sure you keep the freezer and the refrigerator doors closed as much as possible to keep the cold air in. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours, while a freezer will keep food frozen for 2 days if full and one day if half full. Refrigerated perishable foods like milk, meat, leftovers and deli foods should be discarded after 4 hours without power. If your freezer has not risen about 40°F, meat, poultry and seafood can be refrozen.


  • Prevent cross contamination: Make sure when you put your groceries away you keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods. Cross contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to foods from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc. Be sure you also use a separate cutting board when preparing them.


  • Ignore the five second rule: Many people believe that if you drop something on the floor and it only touches the ground for a few seconds, it won’t become contaminated with germs. This is a myth -- food picks up bacteria immediately upon contact. Ignore this rule and throw that food in the garbage.


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Tags: Healthy Eating

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.