Sanitation experts believe that the two major reasons for transmission of foodborne disease in the home are cross-contamination and time/temperature abuse. The biggest risk occurs from a combination of the two. If cross-contamination occurs and foods are not consumed immediately -- but left at room temperature -- bacteria will grow and multiply. It is this growth that can lead to foodborne disease.
Cross-contamination "don'ts" include:
1. Don't cut raw poultry, fish or meat on a cutting board and then use the board again for a different raw or cooked food without thoroughly washing it with hot soapy water.
2. Don't use the same utensil for cutting or turning raw or partially cooked meats and cooked foods.
3. Don't store raw chicken on an upper rack in your refrigerator. Blood and juices may drip onto uncovered or partially covered foods beneath it. Store chicken on a bottom shelf.
4. Don't keep wooden spoons to the point that they begin to splinter. Hard-to-remove bacteria may lodge between the cracks and wipe off onto food. For the same reason, it is not wise to reuse soft disposable wooden chopsticks.
5. Don't use the same kitchen towel for a lot of different purposes. For instance, don't use the same towel to wipe food stains off counters and to dry clean dishes. Paper towels are better for eliminating the risk of cross contamination, as they are thrown out after each use.
6. Don't allow your can opener to get encrusted with food. Bacteria may lodge in the opener and be transmitted when opening other foods. This is also the reason for thoroughly cleaning pots, pans and dishes.
7. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food.
Time/temperature "don'ts" include:
1. Don't allow refrigerated foods to be kept at room temperature for more than two hours.
2. Don't forget to use thermometers. Salmonella in poultry is killed at 165 degrees and trichina are killed at 150 degrees. Refrigerators should be kept at 45 degrees or below.
3. Don't thaw foods on the counter, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. For faster thawing (actually faster even than letting things stand at room temperature), put the frozen package in a watertight plastic bag under cold water, changing the water frequently.
4. Divide bulk-cooked foods into smaller portions before serving or cooling and storing.