Cutting Boards 101

Ask yourself:

How many cutting boards are in your kitchen right now? (Come on…be honest!)

And for about how long have they been there?

Cutting boards are one of those things we take for granted. You buy a few, keep them forever, and don’t really think about what they represent.

A great cutting board review article in USA Today recently summed it up best, saying, “If you think about it, cutting boards are kind of doomed from the start; they’re the crime scene for pretty much every meal you make in the kitchen.”

That’s right, you dissect meat, you carve up vegetables, you splatter food all over your cutting board…and they never fight you back.

But….do they?

Cutting Board Safety

You see…you have to be careful when it comes to cutting boards. Cross contamination of foods can lead to food borne illness, and cutting boards don’t keep forever.

Here are a few tips on cutting board cleanliness:

  • Use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables
  • Wash all cutting boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water
  • Throw out cutting boards that have visible cracks, crevices or knife scars since harmful bacteria can live here

If you’re looking for a reason to swap out some of your kitchen gear, cleaning up your cutting board game might be a good first place to start!




Raw Cookie Dough? Don’t Do It

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Are you a raw cookie dough fan? Maybe the temptation to treat yourself on what will eventually become a cookie conjures up memories of your mom warning you not to. Well guess what? Mom was right. Raw cookie dough is a no go, and it’s not why you think it is.

Most people assume that the raw cookie dough danger stems from its raw egg ingredients that could harbor Salmonella. And while it’s true that raw or undercooked eggs can house this pathogen, it’s actually the flour that may be doing more harm.

Flour comes from grain, and grains are not treated to kill bacteria prior to their inclusion in foods. Grazing animals who relieve themselves on certain grain crop could have their waste product eventually worked into your food supply.

Normally, a “kill step” like baking or broiling would kill potentially harmful pathogens – but you are avoiding that step if and when you consume raw cookie dough.

The US Food and Drug Administration reports that dozens of people have reported becoming ill from a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 that can be traced back to raw flour consumption.

So when it comes to raw cookie dough – be sure to steer clear.

In addition to ditching raw cookie dough, the FDA also recommends that consumers avoid eating raw cake batter, cake mix or any other raw baked good batter.

For more FDA food safety information, click here.


Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen


What better way to usher in the new season than to refresh your kitchen?! This Spring, be sure to add your family’s refrigerator to the cleaning list. Here’s why:

Most of us know that a few simple, easy steps – wash, seperate, cook, and refrigerate – go along way in keeping our families safe and free from food borne illnesses. But, did you know that mold, bacteria, and spills in the refrigerator can put you and your family at risk? Maintaining a clean refrigerator is just as important as cooking food to the proper temperature or keeping your ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meats.

Here are a few simple refrigerator cleaning tips:

  • Clean refrigerator spills immediately, especially those from raw meat juices. Hint: Defrost meats in a covered container on the bottom shelf to reduce spills.
  • Wash the inside of your refrigerator with a clean sponge and warm soapy water, rinse with clean water, and dry with a clean cloth. Don’t skip the shelves and drawers!
  • Regularly clean the refrigerator and freezer handles – they are touched the most.
  • Place an opened box of baking soda in the back of the refrigerator to combat odors. Hint: Swap the box every 3 months.
  • Dust the front grill to allow free airflow to the condenser for best cooling and efficiency.
  • Unplug the refrigerator and clean the condenser coils with a brush or vacuum.

Sorting through foods each week is also an important step in maintaining a clean refrigerator and preventing food borne illnesses. Check the expiration dates, and dispose of expired, rotten, or spoiled food. When in doubt, throw it out!

While it’s important to regularly clean your refrigerator, many of us put off washing the inside, dusting the front grill, and cleaning the condenser coils. This Spring make cleaning your refrigerator a priority!

For more information check out the How Clean Is Your Refrigerator? article, where you can also find helpful links to the refrigerator safety inspection and refrigerator organization video. Happy Spring Cleaning!

Special thanks to dietetic intern Katie Jones for her contribution to this post.


Keep Your Kitchen Safe this Holiday Season

The holidays mean lots of home cooking. But improper food safety techniques can lead to foodborne illness that will ruin anyone’s holiday!

Here are some simple guidelines for maintaining food safety in your home kitchen this holiday season:


  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and produce to prevent bacteria from spreading
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure dishes are cooked to their proper internal temperatures
  • Do not let food sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours
  • Keep leftovers in the refrigerator for no more than 3-4 days or the freezer for 3-4 months
  • Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F

For more information on keeping your food supply safe, check out – the USDA’s online expert for all things food safety.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.

Foodborne illness

December 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Foodborne illness

Foodborne illness is something that most people don’t think about until they get it themselves. However, 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick from and 3,000 die each year due to foodborne illness (Centers for Disease Control, CDC). Given that the holiday season is in full swing, with Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams taking center stage, there’s no better time for a primer on foodborne illness.

What is it?

Foodborne illness (or food poisoning) is the general name for illness caused by more than 250 different pathogens. These pathogens include bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxic chemicals found on fruits, vegetables, meats, and cooking surfaces. The pathogens enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract and may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, and dehydration. Death is also possible if symptoms persist.

What can you do?

The CDC and suggest a number of consumer safety precautions to avoid foodborne illness. The major precautions include cleaning, separating, cooking, and chilling. Should you still be unfortunate enough to contract a foodborne illness, don’t hesitate to report your symptoms to your local health department.

  • CLEAN: Wash yourself and your produce.
    • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.
    • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime.
  • SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate.
    • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and another cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
    • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
  • COOK: Use a food thermometer with meat, poultry, and fish to ensure that proper internal temperatures are reached.
    • Cook roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145°F, poultry to a minimum of 165°F, and fish to a minimum of 145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
  • CHILL: Refrigerate leftovers promptly.
    • Refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours.
    • Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.
  • REPORT: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department.
    • Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected.
    • Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.



Food for thought

Have you or someone you know suffered from a foodborne illness? If so, did you report the incident to your local health department? What precautions should consumers take while preparing meats, fruits, and vegetables? What internal temperatures should you cook meat in order to avoid foodborne illness?


CDC Food Safety website:

Fight Bac website: