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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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Keeping You Safe

September is National Food Safety Education Month, so I thought I would put in my two cents about how to prevent illness. With all of the spinach and other lettuce scares in the past year, I think it is always good for us to be thinking about how to keep our food as safe as possible.

There is one thing that is by far the most important thing when it comes to food safety:

Wash your hands under hot running water with soap for at least 20 seconds. Rubbing your hands vigorously will help get rid of bacteria and viruses and wash them away.

Viruses cause over half of foodborne illness each year, and simply washing your hands can cut back dramatically on the spread of these viruses.

One of the most common viruses is norovirus, commonly called the “stomach flu.” Many people think they have the flu, when in fact it is foodborne illness. Another one is Hepatitis A, which is transmitted through food or water contaminated with human waste. The most common symptoms of both of these are vomiting or diarrhea.

Here are some food safety reminders:

  • When in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers do not have a long shelf life in the fridge. Don’t keep anything longer than a week, and most leftovers should be eaten or thrown away within 3-4 days.
  • Wash hands before preparing food
  • Wash hands before eating food
  • Wash hands between handling meats and other foods
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even if they say prewashed
  • Cook food thoroughly, use a meat thermometer for meats and cook to steaming hot for everything else
  • Defrost frozen food in the fridge (set to 40 degrees or lower). Other alternatives are thawing in the microwave or under cold water. Do not thaw on the countertop
  • Store leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. Do not leave them out on the counter to “breathe.”
  • In a party/buffet situation, keep all perishable foods on ice and change ice frequently. Do not let perishable foods sit out for more than 2 hours.

How safe is your kitchen? Try this quiz

For more information, check out www.homefoodsafety.org

Photo courtesy of aka Kath
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About the Author


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

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