New Year’s Resolutions For a Safer Kitchen

Rinsing Food Can’t think of any new year’s resolutions because you’re already just about perfect? Shelf Life Advice to the rescue!  Here are some resolutions to obey and even post in your kitchen.  You may already have these posted in your brain if you’ve been an attentive Shelf Life Advice reader for the past few years.  In that case, post them for others who may be preparing food in your kitchen.  These pieces come from indisputably reliable sources—our Advisory Board scientists, government sites, and other food safety experts who have provided content for Shelf Life Advice.


1. I will keep possibly dirty items off kitchen counter(s). If it’s been on the floor or ground, it doesn’t belong on a kitchen counter. That includes grocery bags, purses, mail, and the kids’ possessions.  If this rule is impossible for you to follow or if the cat doesn’t listen to you and jumps up there anyway, clean and sanitize the counter. Then, wipe off the sanitizer if you’re going to prepare food on that counter immediately. Also, clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces immediately AFTER each use.  (Dr. Bowser) 


2. I will wash my hands well before handling food and after handling raw food.  Washing well means washing with soap and warm running water for 20 seconds and getting in between the fingers.  (Dr. Allen)


3. Before cutting or cooking food, I will wash fresh fruits and veggies, but NOT meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.  For the rationale behind this recommendation, see




4. I will use a food thermometer to be sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature.  Click here for the Shelf Life Advice chart “Safe Temperatures for Cooking Food.” 


For information about food thermometers, click here:  


For information about different types of food thermometers, click here:—what-you-need-know


5. I will refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. Bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature, so perishables should not be left in the car for longer than that. Perishables left on a buffet should be kept cold enough or warm enough to be outside the “danger zone”of 40°-140°F.


6. I will use up, freeze, or discard leftovers within 3 days.  Follow this rule and you may not need to do a thorough emptying and cleaning plus sanitizing of the fridge quite as often as recommended in #9. Old food in the fridge leads to bacterial and mold growth. (Dr. Allen) 


7. I will not heat up the same leftovers more than onceEvery time food is heated, then cooled, then reheated, it goes through the “danger zone” (40F-140°F), the temperature range at which bacteria multiply quickly. Therefore, it’s best not to reheat the same food twice.


8. I will remember to microwave my WET kitchen sponge every day.  Why? To kill the pathogens that can rapidly grow on and in it.  Never microwave a dry sponge; you could start a fire that way. ( Dr. Cutter AND


9. I will clean and sanitize my refrigerator at least monthly and the freezer at least twice a year. (Dr. Bowser)  For tips on how to clean the fridge, click here:  For tips on cleaning the freezer, click here:


10. I will read the home page of Shelf Life Advice weekly and consult the “Products” section whenever I am uncertain about how to handle a specific product.





Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D. , Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural



Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science “Dangerous Food Safety Mistakes” “Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often”



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