University of Florida

Families & Consumers FAQ

Food Safety

How can I prevent foodborne illness?

There are four basic steps to follow:

  • Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate.
  • Cook. Cook to proper temperatures.
  • Chill. Refrigerate promptly.
What is the safest way to defrost meat, poultry, and fish products?

Food safety experts recommend thawing foods in the refrigerator or the microwave oven, or putting the package in a watertight plastic bag, submerging the bag in cold water, and changing the water every 30 minutes. Changing the water ensures that the food is kept cold, an important factor for slowing bacterial growth that may occur on the outer thawed portions while the inner areas are still thawing.

When microwaving, follow package directions. Leave about 2 inches (about 5 centimeters) between the food and the inside surface of the microwave to allow heat to circulate. Smaller items will defrost more evenly than larger pieces of food. Foods defrosted in the microwave oven should be cooked immediately after thawing.

Do not thaw meat, poultry, and fish products on the counter or in the sink without cold water; bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature.

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Kitchen Tools

How should I select and use cutting boards?

Cutting boards can harbor bacteria in cracks and grooves caused by knives. However, plastic, hard woods such as maple, or any other nonporous surface can be used safely with little effort. Here’s how:

  • Choose a good surface. Select a board that can be cleaned easily, and that is smooth, durable, and nonabsorbent. Plastic is less porous than wood, making it less likely to harbor bacteria and easier to clean.
  • Wash your board. Wash your cutting board with hot water, soap, and even a scrub brush to remove food and dirt particles.
  • Sanitize your board. After washing it, sanitize your board in the dishwasher or by rinsing it in a diluted chlorine bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. You can keep such a solution handy in a spray bottle near the sink.

Remember to always clean and sanitize your board after using it for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and before using it for ready-to-eat foods.

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