You know you shouldn’t chop your veggies on the same cutting board you used to slice raw chicken, and that using a meat thermometer is the only reliable way to tell that your meat is cooked properly. But here are seven food poisoning mistakes you may not realize you’re making.
1. Reusing the Same Shopping Bag
Totes made out of cloth can be a breeding ground for bacteria. “Juices can drip from packages of raw meat and contaminate the outside of the packaging and the bag,” says Sana Mujahid, Ph.D., manager of food safety research at Consumer Reports.
2. Keeping Meat on the Top Fridge Shelf
Disease-causing bacteria from raw meat or poultry can spread to foods you wouldn’t suspect and make you seriously ill. Case in point: A few years ago, 60 people who worked at the same Connecticut company were sickened with E. coli 0157, a potentially deadly bacteria. When health officials investigated, they discovered that all the employees had eaten chicken tenders in the company’s cafeteria.
3. Rinsing Poultry Before Cooking
There’s no culinary or cleanliness benefit to doing this, and it could make you sick. Washing the bird could splash bacteria all over your sink, your countertops, and nearby utensils or dishes.
4. Not Washing Your Hands Often Enough
People know they should wash their hands when preparing food, but they don’t do it as often as they should, according to an experiment conducted by the Department of Agriculture that evaluated the food safety habits of nearly 400 people as they prepared turkey burgers in a test kitchen. In two-thirds of the instances when the participants should have washed their hands, they didn’t. And even when people did scrub up, very few did so properly.
5. Scrolling While Cooking
Mobile phones and tablets have become kitchen staples, whether to look up recipes, play music, text, or use social media. Nearly half of the 4,000-plus people who participated in the 2016 Food Safety Survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA used a mobile device while cooking, but only about a third of those people washed their hands afterward.
6. Not Checking Your Fridge Temperature
Some types of disease-causing bacteria can breed and spread rapidly in your refrigerator if the temperature inside isn’t cold enough.
7. Allowing Pets on Kitchen Counters
The Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. recommends that you keep pets out of your kitchen entirely because they can spread pathogens. If that’s not practical, at least keep cats and other pets off the kitchen counters and dining tables (remember, they walk in and out of a litter box!).