Food safety: Avoiding common, harmful kitchen mistakes

How to practice food safety to prevent bacteria from spreading

Are you practicing good food safety in your kitchen? Here are some common mistakes that could contribute to the spread of bacteria.

If you live in a busy household, mealtime can be hectic and full of distractions -- but that’s when mistakes happen that could get you sick.

It’s important to practice food safety in your kitchen to help ensure bacteria isn’t spreading from food and surfaces to your body. Below, we’ve compiled some advice that you can follow in the kitchen to help stay healthy.

Cleaning kitchen sponges

One common mistake often made in household kitchens: holding onto your kitchen sponge for too long.

Kitchen sponges are hotbeds for bacteria, particularly because they come in contact with a lot of food and are tough to keep clean. Experts say that sponges used to wash dishes and counters should never be used to clean up meat juices.

And kitchen sponges should actually be sanitized every day. You can sanitize your sponge by putting it in the dishwasher, or in the microwave for one minute.

However, even if you sanitize your sponge every day, you should still replace it every week or two weeks.

Storing raw meat

Another common kitchen mistake is improperly storing raw meat.

It’s a bad idea to keep your meat, chicken and fish on the top shelf of the refrigerator, as bacteria from the meat can spread to other foods.

Instead, store your meat on the bottom shelf, and make sure it is kept in a sealed bag or container so juices don’t leak.

Refrigerator, freezer temperatures

It’s also important to monitor the temperature on your refrigerators and freezers to make sure they are set appropriately. If they’re not cold enough, bacteria can breed and spread quickly.

Refrigerators should be set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit -- Consumer Reports says 37 degrees is an ideal temperature. Freezers should be no higher than 0 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep food safe.

Related: How chef Luis Garza is sharing his passion for food with Metro Detroiters

Don’t wash chicken

This mistake may be surprising to some: It’s best not to wash raw chicken before cooking it.

Washing the poultry can actually spread bacteria over your sink, countertops, utensils and dishes -- so it’s best to avoid it altogether.

No phones while cooking

When in the kitchen, it’s important to pay more attention to the meal you’re preparing, and less attention to your phone.

While there are no studies specifically linking mobile device use with food poisoning, research reportedly shows that devices can carry bacteria, which you can transfer from your hands to your food, or vice versa.

Washing reusable grocery bags

Another common mistake: not washing reusable grocery bags.

Those bags can be cleaned in the washing machine using hot water.

If you’re storing meat in a reusable cloth grocery bag, you should wrap the meat in a plastic bag and seal it before placing it in the bag.

Washing your hands

This tip may seem obvious, but it also may be one of the most important to follow.

Hand washing is essential while preparing meals, especially when switching tasks. Be sure to wash hands before, throughout and after your meal preparation.

When washing your hands, use soap and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.

More Help Me Hank: How much money is needed to combat elevated lead levels in Michigan communities?

About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4’s Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV’s “Help Me Hank” Consumer Unit. Hank works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off people in our community.