Be smart and keep foods apart to prevent contaminationUniversity of Illinois Extension Services — March 30, 2022
When serving a meal to a child, you may have heard them demand that their foods not touch each other. This mantra of “don’t let my foods touch!” is one to live by when storing and preparing raw animal foods, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs, which must be kept separate from ready-to eat-foods.
This is very important to remember, as raw animal products can carry harmful pathogens that can cross-contaminate or spread onto other foods or surfaces, potentially leading to foodborne illness. When should you keep them separated?
Follow these simple steps to be smart and keep foods apart:
- When at the grocery store, place raw fresh meats, poultry, fish and seafood in a plastic bag to keep any juices contained and keep them away from fresh produce or other ready-to-eat foods in your grocery cart.
- Store raw meats, poultry and seafood below ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator, and if possible, place them in sealed containers or plastic bags. Fruits and vegetables should be placed inside the crisper drawer of the refrigerator or above these raw animal foods.
- Store eggs in their original carton and keep in the back of the refrigerator where it is the coldest, not the door.
- When preparing foods, thoroughly wash cutting boards, utensils, countertops, and any surface that comes into contact with raw animal foods with soap and hot water. If possible, use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for fresh produce. Otherwise, cut fruits and vegetables first and put them away; then wash the cutting board and knife before preparing the raw meat. Be sure to replace cutting boards when they’ve become excessively worn.
- When marinating raw meat, poultry or seafood, never reuse the marinade unless boiling it first. If basting the cooked meat with marinade is desired, be sure to separate the marinade before letting the meat touch it. Always remember to marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter at room temperature where bacteria can grow.
- When serving food, always use a clean plate to place cooked food. Never use a plate that previously held raw animal foods unless washed in hot, soapy water first. Likewise, never use utensils that have handled raw animal foods to handle cooked food unless washed first.
Of course, whenever handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, be sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Be smart and keep foods apart!
For more information go to the USDA web site, https://www.usda.gov/. for the article “Check your steps! Separate raw meats from other foods to keep your family safer from food poisoning” (Feb. 21, 2017)
Jenna Smith is a nutrition and wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties.