Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Despite the cold front that blew through this weekend, the weather lately has me in the spring-cleaning mode. Not only the regular spring cleaning but also the kitchen cleanout cleaning.

We tend to use our kitchen appliances on a daily basis, but do you ever clean out your fridge or freezer? And I don’t mean just throwing out leftovers or produce that is rotting in your drawers but really cleaning it out. Going through the condiments and making sure the expiration or use-by date is still within date can save you from food poisoning down the road.

Did you know that the use-by date is actually the last day that the manufacturer will guarantee their food will still be a quality food? That doesn’t mean that the food doesn’t taste good or will cause you illness; it just means that it won’t be as good as it was while it was in date. If a product was properly stored and used, the food may well stay good to use beyond the use-by date. However, if you have lost electricity or left an item out for more than four hours, there may be some food-safety issues occurring, and it is recommended to toss those products.

And no surprise, there’s even an app for that. Download the free app Is My Food Safe? to check the shelf life of foods, cooking temperatures and other food FAQs and safety tips.

Bacteria is in or on almost all of our foods. Following proper handling procedures is what makes foods safe to eat. Keeping foods at the proper temperatures is key to keeping foods safe. The danger zone is when bacteria multiply at dramatic rates.

The danger zone is 40-140 degrees, meaning that you want to keep cold foods cold (under 40 degrees) and hot foods hot (over 140 degrees).

So make sure that when your cleaning out your fridge that your fridge is set below 40 degrees in order to keep your cold foods cold. Also make sure to wipe out any drawers or shelves that have spills, which may cross-contaminate bacteria from one source (such as meat) to another source (such as lettuce).

Don’t forget to clean your other cooking places as well, such as your microwave, oven and stove.

Keeping those appliances clean can help you not only stay healthy but also may help keep you from starting a kitchen fire. A buildup of grease and food particles can set you up for bigger problems down the road. The best thing to do is clean them up right away. You may find it also helps keep your appliance in better working order.

So enjoy the weather, get outside, but make sure the inside of your house is good and clean as well.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is a registered dietitian for both DeTar Healthcare System and Jackson County Hospital District.

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