Q & A: Germ Czar Richard Raymond

Cook and Eat Safely

Creme Cafe chef Terrell Danley with Richard Raymond, FSIS undersecretary for food safety, spreading the word about food safety.
Creme Cafe chef Terrell Danley with Richard Raymond, FSIS undersecretary for food safety, spreading the word about food safety. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)

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By Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wash your hands and your cutting boards. Keep raw food away from cooked food. Use a thermometer to be sure food is cooked to a safe temperature. Chill cooked food promptly when everyone's done eating.

Those are the four rules that germ czar Richard Raymond, otherwise known as the undersecretary for food safety for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, wants you to remember this Thanksgiving as you cook your turkey and trimmings.

Raymond was Nebraska's chief medical officer before coming to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in July.

As a physician he knew a lot about public health, but he admits even he had things to learn about kitchen safety.

Q So what have you been doing differently in your own kitchen since becoming germ czar?

A A lot. I didn't have a thermometer in my refrigerator when I started. I used to take the raw burgers out to the grill on a plate and then bring the cooked ones in on the same plate. Now I'm a lot more careful about cross-contamination and keeping my cutting boards clean.

What are you cooking on Thanksgiving?

My whole family will celebrate Thanksgiving in Nebraska with a big turkey dinner on Friday, so on Thursday my wife and I will just grill a couple of Nebraska T-bones.

Stuffing -- in the turkey or not?

Not. Cook your stuffing in a casserole dish. It's not only safer, it also will taste better.

What else should people do on Thanksgiving to make sure their food stays safe?

Be sure they don't let cooked food sit at room temperature too long. People pack food in the car for a long trip without properly chilling it, or they let cooked food sit for hours after the meal. Food should be promptly packed in shallow containers -- so it can chill quickly -- and put in the refrigerator.

Do you think we've become too germ-obsessed?

As long as anyone dies from food poisoning, you can't be too germ-obsessed. We've lowered food-borne illness a lot, but there are still too many dying from those germs. We can do better.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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