The tips you will find below follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for what everyone can do to make food safer to eat.
Dirt is what makes things dirty. As a simple rule of thumb, if your produce grows in the ground or close to the ground, it needs to be washed thoroughly. Onions, scallions, shallots and leeks fall into this category. After you peel the papery skin away from an onion, it needs a good rinse before being transferred to a clean cutting board. Both leeks and green onions have more places for dirt to hide and should spend a few minutes soaking in water before rinsing away the grit.
Some foods are simply better to buy organic. Soft skinned fruits and veggies like strawberries and peaches make pesticide residue more difficult to remove. If you can’t peel or scrub the skin, then organic is a better choice. Contamination can also happen way back at the seedling stage. For instance, some seeds, like apple seeds, are actually soaked in pesticides prior to planting them to save time and money on spraying as they grow. That is why organic apples might be a smart investment.
Organic does not necessarily mean clean. A good example of this would be any type of melon like cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon. Even if you grab it from the organic section, the outer rind still needs a good scrubbing. While organic farms avoid using chemical fertilizers, they do commonly amend their soil with cow manure.
Packaged lettuce and salad mix must be washed. I know it is tempting to go from bag to plate, especially when the convenient packaging promises that it has been triple washed. But you don’t want to become a statistic when the next E. coli outbreak occurs. When cleaning a head of cabbage or lettuce, discard any outer leaves, damaged or not.
With eggs, don’t forget to wash the shell. Processing plants don’t spend much time cleaning those eggs in your carton. You should rinse the shell before breaking it to cut down on contamination. And like any other protein product, refrigeration is paramount. According to the website incredibleegg.org: “Keep eggs in the main section of the refrigerator at a temperature between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Eggs accidentally left at room temperature should be discarded after two hours or one hour in warm weather.”
Don’t play raw oyster roulette. These tasty temptations are a host for any number of bacterial strains, as well as increasing your risk of contracting nasty diseases like Hepatitis A. Unless you are on the Gulf Coast and the month ends in “r,” this is one dirty dish you should avoid. I know what some of you die-hard oyster fans are thinking...and the answer is no. Tabasco sauce has no known antibacterial qualities. May I suggest fried oysters instead?
Your fresh meats could use a rinse too. Whether it is beef, pork, poultry or fish, you know that well-cooked meat is crucial to avoiding food poisoning. Why not go the extra mile? When removing your meat from its packaging to cook, rinse off the outside of the meat with cold running water to remove any bacteria that may have formed. Then don’t forget to wash your hands again with soap and spritz your sink with an anti-bacterial spray.
- by Courtney Dabney