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Food Prep & Storage Safety

Although food recommendations have not changed due to COVID-19, there are a few important items to remember to ensure food safety after bringing home grocery store purchases or when storing leftovers.

Wash Your Produce

woman washing tomato at the sink

Always wash your vegetables and fruit before you eat them.

If possible, the FDA recommends selecting produce that isn’t bruised or damaged. Pre-cut items, such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices, should be refrigerated or kept on ice while in the store and at home. In addition, you can follow these steps below to keep your food safe.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  • Rinse produce before you peel it to make sure dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water.
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • For foods like lettuce or cabbage, remove the outermost leaves.

Food storage

Storing and preparing foods at the right temperature is important. The food danger zone is between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep foods out of the danger zone, store cold foods below 40 degrees and hot foods above 140 degrees. Foods left in the danger zone for two or more hours should be discarded.

Label cooked foods that are refrigerated as leftovers with a ‘use by’ date. The use by date should be no longer than seven days after the food was first prepared. After seven days, even refrigerated food can start growing bacteria. Leftovers should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

It’s easy to over stock canned foods in kitchen cabinets. To ensure food safety and limit food waste, use the ‘First In, First Out’ rule. For example, if you purchase new canned goods, use the ones already in your cabinet or pantry before opening new ones.