The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Food and Kitchen Safety When Dining “In”

Food and Kitchen Safety When Dining “In”

Dietitian Dialogues

April 26, 2009

What’s the newest dining hot spot? The family dinner table! As registered dietitians we favor the practice of eating at home because it encourages both adults and children to make healthier food choices, reduce fat and salt intake and better control portions. On the other hand, with 40 percent of adults handling food improperly in their home kitchens, dining in has the potential to turn into an evening that is best forgotten.

Here are five easy tips you can share with your consumers to help them make their kitchen more food-safe:

1.) Scrub-a-Dub-Dub: It has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that proper hand washing could eliminate close to half of all cases of food-borne illness. Hands should be washed before and after handling food, and especially after handling raw meat, fish, poultry or eggs.

2.) Make it Hot: Ensure that foods have reached the proper internal temperature before removing from heat. A food thermometer is an excellent tool because you can’t always tell that a food is thoroughly cooked by its appearance or how it feels to the touch.

3.) Clean In Between: Prevent dangerous cross contamination, the transfer of bacteria from one food or surface to another, by washing and sanitizing hands, surfaces and utensils between preparation tasks. It may also be helpful to designate items such as utensils or cutting boards for specific tasks.

4.) Lesson on Leftovers: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking. Use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days and frozen within three to six months. When reheating, get out that food thermometer to make sure the temperature reaches 165 degrees throughout. When microwaving, stir and rotate the container to prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive.

5.) Check your Temps: Encourage your customers to check the temperature of their refrigerators and freezers at home and make sure they know what the proper temperatures are. A whopping 71 percent of adults are unaware of the proper temperature settings for their refrigerators, and 86 percent don't know how to set the proper temperature for their freezer.

6.) Storage Matters: When perishable items are first purchased, they can be safely stored in the refrigerator for one to two days, but then must be cooked or wrapped separately and frozen. The shelf life for frozen meat and poultry is indefinite, though for best results and to preserve the quality of the item, store for no more than six months. Mark all foods that were removed from their original packaging and re-wrapped with the “date frozen” to ensure proper rotation of food in and out of the freezer.

Now more than ever, families are putting on their aprons and getting back into the kitchen to trim costs associated with restaurant dining or ordering food in. In fact, results of a 2008 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) survey showed that 71 percent of consumers report cooking more and eating out less. There’s never been a better time to boost consumer knowledge of home kitchen food safety.

Beth Stark, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and Healthy Living Coordinator for Weis Markets, Inc., a regional grocery store chain with 154 stores in 5 states. In this role, Beth provides nutrition and wellness education to Weis Markets customers and is a key contributor to the Weis Healthy Bites™ program. She is a Pennsylvania Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist and active member of the American Dietetic Association.

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at