Everyone uses a slightly different set of guidelines when it comes to food safety, but some people’s standards are a bit more “flexible” than others. The perfect example is the so-called “five second rule.” If you’re not familiar with it, that “rule” states that if you drop food on the floor (or ground) and pick it up within five seconds, then it’s safe to eat!
In some cases, you can wash and safely eat food that has fallen on the floor, but it depends on the condition of the floor and what type of food you’re dropping. While some mothers may jokingly say, “My kitchen floor is so clean you could eat off it,” eating food that has fallen on the floor can be somewhat risky.
Although the 5-second-rule has its humorous side, food safety is a very serious subject. Making sure that perishable food is properly prepared, cooked, and refrigerated is one way to help keep your family healthy. There’s also a psychological benefit to being careful with food safety: When you and your family know that your food is fresh, safely stored, and properly prepared, it helps give you peace of mind and makes mealtime more of a pleasurable experience.
Basic Food Safety Tips
One way to keep track of food freshness is to pay attention to expiration dates and other information printed on food labels. Another step involves putting your own labels on perishable foods and leftover food containers. “When in doubt, throw it out,” is also a good policy to consider.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DOH) offers a number of helpful food safety guidelines to keep in mind and discuss with your family. To reduce the chances of cross-contamination and harmful bacteria growing on food, the agency recommends the following practices:
- Wash hands for 20 seconds before preparing food
- Wash food preparation surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards after each use
- Wash the outsides of fruits and vegetables to help remove bacteria and other impurities
- Promptly refrigerate food and follow recommended storage times and refrigeration temperatures
While there are a lot of safeguards to be aware of when preparing, handling, and storing food, the DOH breaks it down into four easy-to-remember categories: “clean, separate, cook, and chill.” A couple related topics worth researching and keeping in mind are minimum cooking temperatures for meat and recommended refrigerator storage times for perishable food (often three to five days).
As an afterthought, the other advantage of putting dates on your food packages and leftover containers is that you avoid wasting food by throwing it away prematurely.
Healthy food preparation and storage does involve heightened awareness and sometimes creating new habits, but preventing food poisoning and other digestive ailments in your family is well worth the effort!