This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted some food safety new years resolutions to its blog. “It’s that time of year again, when we all make promises to ‘do better’ or ‘do more’ in the new year,” posted USDA’s Steve Hou. “[O]ne of the most important resolutions for you and your family is to improve food safety in your home and workplace.”

Here is a list of some of the Agency’s 2010 food safety resolutions:

  • Buy a food thermometer. You’ve been told to do it. You’ve thought about it. This year, do it. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know if meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe temperature. You can’t tell just by looking at the color.
  • Use appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer. The temperature in the refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F; the freezer should be 0 degrees F or below.  These settings ensure food stays out of the “Danger Zone” where bacteria multiply.
  • Do not leave pizza sitting out for longer than two hours.  Foods that sit out for more than two hours at room temperature–or 1 hour if the room or outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees F–can support bacteria growth.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re not sure if your food has been sitting out too long, throw it away.  Remember, your health is worth more than the cost of any food you try to save.
  • Keep your hands clean. This cannot be stressed enough. Clean hands prevent the transfer of bacteria to other surfaces or food items and prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and after preparing food, using the bathroom, changing diapers and touching pets.
  • Toss leftovers and take-out or ready-to-eat foods that have been sitting in your refrigerator for four days or longer.
  • Don’t get rid of old leftovers or take-out food by feeding it to your pets! Pets can get foodborne illness just as we can. If you shouldn’t eat it, then your pet shouldn’t eat it either.

“Make this New Year a safe one by promising to follow proper food handling, preparation and storage practices,” added Hou. “This is one resolution it’s important to keep all year–for yourself and your family.”

(Source: USDA Blog December 31, 2009)