3 Reasons I Might Have Failed #KannyKitchen101

Megan Smith, @meganmichel33, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern 

According to data from the IFIC Foundation’s 2014 Food and Healthy Survey, 41 percent of Americans report that they have given “a lot of thought” to the safety of their food and beverages. As an intern on my journey to becoming a Registered Dietitian, I asked myself, do I think a lot about food safety? I don’t know if it’s because of my nutritional background or my self-proclaimed “germaphobia,” but I expect I am part of that 41 percent population of consumers. 

Our TV wish is that all celebrity chefs would use cooking thermometers!

So when I joined the #KannyKitchen101 webinar, hosted by the IFIC Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), I was excited to test my personal food safety knowledge. Here are the top 3 things that I learned:

Food Network Stars aren’t always the best role models.

They may be amazing chefs, but food network stars don’t always set the best example when it comes to food safety. You rarely see your favorite chef stick a food thermometer into his meat, for example. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Chef. You are making an extremely common food safety mistake by not using a food thermometer to ensure your meat and poultry reach a safe internal cooking temperature.  In fact, according to the Food & Health Survey, only 1 in 3 Americans say they use a thermometer to make sure their food is cooked to the proper internal temperature. Beat the statistic and check out this reliable source to learn how to properly use a meat thermometer!

You’ll want to avoid Campylobacter, whether you’ve heard of it or not.

If you’ve never heard of Campylobacter bacteria before don’t be embarrassed, neither had I. In fact only 5 percent of Americans have heard of the diarrhea-causing pathogen. But that doesn’t mean it’s not common. According to the CDC, the bacteria affected an estimated 1.3 million people each year. Here’s the kicker, the bacteria is most commonly contracted through the consumption of raw or undercooked poultry or meat, or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. For example, a person can easily become infected by the pathogen if they use a cutting board to cut raw meat and vegetables, without washing it in between uses. Luckily, there are easy steps you can take to save yourself a really rough week.

This brings me to the third and final most important thing that I learned during this webinar….

Washing your hands is really, really important!

I’m sure you’re thinking, “I already knew that.” But did you know that you’re supposed to wash your hands before, during, and after handling food? This means that anytime you open a new food item, anytime you touch a kitchen handle, anytime you use a kitchen appliance, you should wash your hands before AND after! It seems tedious, but it is a top way to prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen. To make this process easier, have your (clean) kitchen appliances and ingredients out and ready to go, with separate meats, produce, and dry ingredients, before you start to cook. A study from University of Kansas aimed at identifying how consumers handle food showed that 82 percent of us leave bacterial contamination on all kitchen handles (sink, refrigerator, pantry etc.) To put this in perspective, when you go back in your pantry to pull out that late night snack, you could potentially pick up bacteria from the pantry handle and transfer it to your snack. Additionally, the study found that the majority of participants did not follow proper hand-washing technique. Check out the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website on handwashing to see if you know how to get hand washing done right!

All in all, #KannyKitchen101 was extremely informative and taught me a lot of new things about food safety that I hadn’t thought about before. Learn more about food safety and food safety education month to increase your healthful habits in the kitchen, and next time, we’ll both pass #KannyKitchen101 with flying colors!