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How To Minimize Risk Of Infection In The Home


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© American Cancer Society 2010

Personal Hygiene

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm, running water for 20 seconds before and after every step in food preparation.(An easy way to count 20 seconds, is to sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY twice. You can see a video about how to wash hands correctly at offsite link.
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom, handling garbage or touching pets.
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel or cloth hand towel that is changed daily.

In the Kitchen

  • Work surfaces
    • Plastic or glass surfaces should be used for cutting raw meat and poultry. Wooden boards are safe if they are used only for raw meat and poultry. Use a different cutting board for other food, such as produce, cheese, and bread.
    • Wash cutting boards after each use in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher. 
    • Sanitize both wooden and plastic cutting boards with a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water. 
      • This should be done every time the board is used for raw meat, fish, or poultry. 
      • Sanitize boards used for other purposes every week. Alllow the bleach solution to stand for at least two minutes, then rinse and air-dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels.
    • Replace cutting boards with cracks or grooves.
    • Keep counter and kitchen surfaces free of food particles. Clean regularly with a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water.
  • Appliances
    • Keep the microwave, oven, toaster, can openers, blender and mixer blades and other appliances free of food particles.
    • Remove blender blades and bottom when washing the jar. Use a bleach solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water to sanitize these items.
  • The sink area
    • Keep soap nearby for hand-washing
    • Use paper towels to dry your hands.
    • Use fresh, clean dishcloths and dish towels every day.
    • If you use sponges, replace them at least once a week. Some experts suggest avoiding sponges entirely because they can hold germs and spread them around.
    • Soak dishcloths and sponges every day for five minutes in a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water to sanitize them. Or you may heat wet sponges in the microwave on high for two minutes, or run them through the dishwasher. (Note: sponges will get very hot in the microwave.)
    • Store food supplies away from the kitcen sink. 
    • Do not store chemicals and cleaning products near food supplies.
    • Use liquid dish soap and very warm water when hand washing dishes, pans and utensils. You may air-dry dishes instead of using a towel. 
  • Refrigerator/freezer
    • Keep the refrigerator clean. Wipe spills up right away. Check for food scraps. Sanitize shelves and doors regularly.
    • Wipe the refrigerator once a week with a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water.
    • Keep the refrigerator temperature between 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep freezer temerature below 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Store all food in covered containers after cooling.
      • First cool hot foods, uncovered, in the refrigerator.
      • Then, cover storage containers tightly after cooling. Freeze what you do not plan to use within the next two to three days.
      • Throw out all prepared foods after 3 days in the refrigerator.
    • Throw out eggs with cracked shells.
    • Throw out foods older than their "use by" expiration dates.
    • Throw out entire food packages or containers with any mold present, including yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, fruit, vegetables, jelly, bread and pastry products.
    • Throw out freezer-burned foods
  • Cupboard/Pantry
    • Keep food storage areas clean and check for signs of insects or rodents.
    • Throw out any can with signs of spoilage such as bulges, leaks, cracks or deep dents in the seam area.
    • Rotate food stock so older items are used first. Do not use foods past their "use by" expiration dates.
    • Home-canned foods:
      • Use home-canned foods within 1 year of canning. 
      • Review how the food was processed to be sure the pH of food, size of bottle, and elevation above sea level was right.
      • Look for mold and leaks. 
      • Check seals.
      • If you think a home-canned food may not have been processed properly, if the lid bulges, or if the food has any bad odor or looks unusual after opening, throw it out - no matter who made it.
  • See: Safe handling, storage and cooking

For information about avoiding infection, in general, click here. For the following specific situations, click on the link:

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