Kitchen Guidelines: Cook Safely and Prevent Foodborne Illness

Story by Camille Wachholz
Feature Photo via Unsplash
Graphic by Tessa Harvey 

Foodborne illness can affect anyone. As people in our late teens and early twenties, many of us are new to cooking and not always sure how to properly prepare food. Grand Central has some tips on how to safely store, prepare and enjoy your favorite foods, while taking caution to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Perishable Foods
Food items prone to causing illness:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Meat: beef, pork, lamb, poultry
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cooked rice, beans or vegetables
  • Tofu
  • Sprouts
  • Cut or sliced fruit and vegetables

Taking Precautions
The best way to prevent bacterial growth or contamination in these foods is by paying attention to time and temperature.

Graphic by Tessa Harvey

The “temperature danger zone” is 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit. This range of temperature is ideal for bacteria to grow rapidly. The less time food spends in this risky temperature zone, the safer it will be to consume.

A food thermometer is also a handy investment because perishables need to be cooked to or stored at certain temperatures. For example, many people assume ground beef is fully cooked when it’s brown and no longer pink. However, if it hasn’t reached 155 degrees Fahrenheit, dangerous bacteria could still be living in every bite.

Expiration Dates versus “Sell by” Dates
“Sell by:” or “Best by:” labels don’t mean much. They’re just a way for stores to know how long to keep something on the shelf. Passing of the specified date doesn’t necessarily mean the item has expired.

Stickers that actually say “expiration date” tend to be fairly accurate, as they are administered by the company that sourced the food. Trust your senses, though. If something looks or smells off, it probably is. Generally, a perishable item that has been opened can last in your fridge for 5 to 7 days. Unopened, it could last up to 2 to 3 weeks.

It can be easy to tell when food has gone bad, if it looks, smells or feels odd – know that microorganisms have taken over and claimed it as it’s own and throw it out! Take these food expertise skills and practice them in your own kitchen.