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Kitchen Crazies Lead to Risky Business

Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S. Former Northwest Regional Nutrition Specialist, Nodaway County Extension Center, University of Missouri Extension


“Surely! That’s done!” “Here honey, eat this.” “It’s on the table waiting!”

Hurried or rushed cooks-even impatient cooks can create a crazy kitchen and be welcoming uninvited guests! The guests are not checking for dust bunnies behind the door or going to write messages in the dust-they are guests of your stomach-and they are unwelcome!

The uninvited guests I’m referring to are those associated with food borne illness-flu like symptoms can begin within a few hours or a few days and last a few hours or several days. Food borne illness symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. The illness doesn't always happen immediately so it’s often not associated with the foods we’ve eaten.

Most food borne illness outbreaks are caused by improper cooking, cooling, reheating, hot holding methods and lack of hand washing? So caution lights are phrases like: “Surely! That’s done!” “Here honey, eat this.” “It’s on the table waiting!” Let’s peek in on these likely situations and see what’s happening.

“Sure! That’s done!” You think you’ve thoroughly cooked your food, but guess what. It might not be true. For instance, most people figure their hamburgers are done when they turn brown in the middle. New studies show that one out of every four burgers turns brown before it’s done. Why is that important? Undercooked hamburgers have been linked to serious illness from E. coli. 0157:H7. Cure: Use a thermometer.

“Here honey, eat this.” When you open a package of raw chicken, and then grab a cracker to give to your fussy toddler, you might also be passing along dangerous bacteria. Salmonella can be present on the raw chicken. When you touch it and then touch something else-even your child’s baby bottle-you risk spreading food borne bacteria. Cure: Wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw meats and before touching anything!

“It’s on the table waiting!” Not everyone makes it to the table at the same time so you leave a plate for the tardy family member. Do you really know when they arrived home to eat? Or, you leave a hot pot with planned overs on the stove to cool while you run kids to the pool, take someone to the field, or run a quick errand. The only problem is this: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. So, when you get back, your pot looks, smells and feels fine. However, germs are good at being invisible-until they are beating around in your stomach! Cure: Refrigerate in shallow containers before leaving the house.

Foods held in the “danger zone” from 40 to 140 degrees for more than two hours when reheating, cooling or serving process means lots of germs. And germs can make one sick!

Parents (caregivers and friends) despite their best intentions may not be handling food safely, according to consumer research. Studies confirm that one-third of all food borne illnesses in this county occur in children under 10 years old. In fact, children under 1 are the age group most likely to get sick from Salmonella.

Recently I visited with a local cancer support group about nutrition-and the topic of food safety surfaced. We discussed carried in dishes, reheating of foods, how long foods are left out of the refrigerator, storing leftovers, the length of time to eat, etc. It was a good discussion and particularly important for folks whose immune system is already compromised. Good rules for all to remember are those in the Fight Bac! Campaign. Keep hands, surfaces and foods clean; Chill or refrigerate promptly; Cook to the proper temperature; and, Keep foods separate and don’t cross-contaminate. For more food safety information, go to:


Last Updated 10/25/2007






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