Food safety consultant dishes on kitchen tips

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "If I was going to go in and inspect a home kitchen, they'd probably be scared," laughed food safety consultant Nancy Freeman.

This was one of the first things Freeman told me before she was going to do just that in my kitchen, and I was a little scared.  I will even admit to doing a little extra scrubbing before she arrived.

However, I stepped aside and let her expert eye examine my tiny kitchen. Freeman has worked with both commercial kitchens and homemakers, teaching food safety. She was in my home to see if my cooking and cleaning habits could stand up to a health inspection.

It wasn't long before she spotted the first problem.

"You want to be careful, because see, there are food particles left here [in the sink]. If I was cleaning some lettuce for a salad or something see those particles could pick up in my salad and cause cross contamination," said Freeman.

Other minor infraction included keeping out a wet sponge that can harbor bacteria, putting raw meet above ready to eat items in my fridge, and a few mysterious food stains in the fridge door that needed cleaning.

However, after her inspection she gave me an overall pass.  Then it was time for me to start cooking.

It wasn't long before we were joined by my puppy who's always up for a good meal. Though he may be cute, Freeman says he's also a danger to food safety.

"You do have animals in the house; keep them out of your kitchen," said Freeman. "Even if your animal is on the floor you tend to lean over and say, 'hey baby,' and rub it.  Then you go back to doing what you were doing and you've taken the bacteria from the animal right back into the food you are preparing."

While I was cooking, Freeman's inspection kept going.  She stopped me twice to make sure I washed my veggies before chopping, and to stop me from peeling veggies over an open garbage can that can spread germs. However, she did have some praises.

"When you're done with cold food items, you immediately put them back. That's a really good thing to do," said Freeman who also complemented my frequent hand washing.

Soon the burgers were done and plated with few other interruptions. Then it was time for my grade.

"Some of the great things you did, you washed your hands really well and you remembered to do it in between different tasks," said Freeman. "You used paper towels which is great because it's disposable which takes out that problem with a dish towel and you put away your cold food items as you got through using them."

While I certainly wouldn't be able to run a restaurant out of my kitchen, for me and my pup Freeman's approval means my kitchen passed the home test, and might even satisfy the toughest inspector: my mother.

Freeman says the best kitchen practices boil down to common sense like washing your hands, keeping food at the correct temperature, not keeping leftovers for more than five days, and cleaning up.

You can click here for more tips on food safety.

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