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Common Food Safety Questions
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 • Posted November 12, 2008

How Often Should You Change Your Dishrag?

You should probably change your dishrag more often than you think. Bacteria can come from wiping soiled kitchen surfaces, touching raw meat and then touching your dishrag, and so on. Bacteria are then spread all over your kitchen when that same dishrag is used to clean counters, the kitchen table, and the top of the stove.

Once a dishrag has been used, bacteria can grow rapidly. For example, if you have 100 cells of bacteria on your dishrag and each divides every 15 minutes, within two hours, you'll have 25,600 bacteria.

A few years ago, a TV news program told about scientists finding more bacteria in many peoples’ kitchens than in their bathrooms. And some of the “cleanest” looking kitchens had the most bacteria. These kitchens were the ones that were constantly being “cleaned” with bacteria-laden dishrags.

Cut down on bacteria growth by changing dishrags daily, using paper towels to wipe down surfaces, washing your hands regularly, and sanitizing countertops frequently.

Will Reheating Food Make It Safe if You Forget to Refrigerate It?

If you reheat food that was forgotten on the counter overnight or was left out all day, will it be safe to eat?

TWO HOURS is the MAXIMUM time perishable foods should be at room temperature. This INCLUDES the time they’re on the table during your meal. Just ONE bacterium, doubling every 20 minutes, can grow to over 2,097,152 bacteria in 7 hours!

Perishable foods include:

Meat, poultry, seafood and tofu

Dairy products

Cooked pasta, rice and vegetables

Fresh, peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables.

Reheating food may not make it safe. If food is left out too long, some bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus (staph), can form a heat-resistant toxin that cooking can’t destroy.

One of the most common sources of staph bacteria is the human body. Even healthy people carry staph — according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Bad Bug Book,” staph bacteria are present in the nasal passages and throats and on the hair and skin of 50 percent or more of healthy individuals. Staph bacteria is found in facial blemishes, cuts and lesions.

Most likely, the only way you’ll know if a food contained staph bacteria is when someone gets sick.

Source: Cook It Quick enewsletter, UNL Extension

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