A team led by Christine Bruhn, Ph.D., food-safety expert and Institute of Food Technologists spokesperson, recently videotaped 120 consumers as they prepared a chicken and a salad in their homes. They found that, while many felt confident about their food safety skills, many were making critical mistakes while preparing their meals that could lead to foodborne illness. Here are their easily correctable five kitchen mistakes: Kitchen Mistake No. 1: Not Washing Hands One of the first mistakes Bruhn and her team noted was that the participants forgot to wash their hands before starting to prepare their meal. Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dried with a paper towel, not a cloth towel. This is because the cloth towel can become contaminated and then spread bacteria when used to dry dishes, wipe counters, etc. Kitchen Mistake No. 2: Washing Chicken The study showed that participants often washed their chicken before seasoning and cooking, which is not the correct way to prepare it. When raw chicken is placed under running water, some of the bacteria that could be on the surface of it ends up in the sink (where dishes are washed), and it can splatter as much as two feet around, contaminating surfaces with dangerous salmonella or other bad bugs. Kitchen Mistake No. 3: Not Using a Thermometer to Test Doneness Another mistake that participants made was not cooking the chicken to the proper temperature because they were using their eyes instead of a thermometer to see if it was done. It’s not enough just to look and see if the chicken is white inside and there are no pink juices. A thermometer needs to be used to make sure the chicken is cooked to at least 165 degrees F. Kitchen Mistake No. 4: Improper Refrigerator Temperature Bruhn and her team found that when they took the temperature of the participants’ refrigerators, one was as high as 60 degrees F, and almost 15 percent were about 45 degrees F, which is too warm. The refrigerator should register at 40 degrees F and the freezer at 0 degrees F. Since few refrigerator controls show actual temperatures, using an inexpensive freestanding appliance thermometer will allow you to monitor the temperature and adjust the setting of the refrigerator and/or freezer if necessary. Buy one for the fridge, one for the freezer, and check them often. Kitchen Mistake No. 5: Rewashing Bagged, Pre-Washed Lettuce Pre-washed bagged lettuce does not need to be rinsed or rewashed a second time. There’s a risk that you’ll end up adding bacteria to greens that were perfectly clean to start with if the sink or cutting board is not newly cleaned and sanitized. Just open the bag and dump it into a bowl. Any bacteria that could be eliminated by washing has come off.