Nothing seems to strike fear into the hearts of most of us these days quite like the fear of food poisoning and food born bacteria does. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year about 76 million people in the United States become ill from harmful bacteria in food; of these, about 5,000 die. Bacteria grows rapidly on meat and fish – beef, lamb, chicken, pork, salmon, etc. – at room temperature so all meats, poultry and fish must be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Keep raw meat away from other foods as it’s very easy to cross contaminate. I’ve seen it recommended to use separate cutting boards at all times. One for raw meat that is never used for any other foods and one for fruits, vegetables, etc. It’s also very important to disinfect any surface or object that the raw meat has touched.
A simple, inexpensive and non-toxic method is to spray surfaces with vinegar, then with hydrogen peroxide. No rinsing is necessary. Produce and meats can also be sprayed in this manner to disinfect. Here’s some more information on the use of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect both foods and surfaces. (Note: do not use this method on counters or surfaces made of calcium-based stone such as limestone, marble or calcite as the vinegar may etch or dissolve the stone. Use soap and water instead.)
All meats should be cooked thoroughly and it’s recommended that you use a meat thermometer to be sure that meats are properly cooked. Here’s a guide for safe temperatures:
USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures
- Steaks & Roasts – 145 °F
- Fish – 145 °F
- Pork – 160 °F
- Ground Beef – 160 °F
- Egg Dishes – 160 °F
- Chicken Breasts – 165 °F
- Whole Poultry – 165 °F
Once food is cooked it should be consumed at once or packaged into a container and stored in the refrigerator. Remember to wash your hands frequently before, during and after handling raw meats and wash all cooking utensils, pans, dishes immediately in hot soapy water after use. Follow up with another spray of the vinegar and then the hydrogen peroxide to kill up to 10 times more bacteria than just soap and water alone.