With the recent outbreak of food poisoning at restaurants, people are wondering, “How did this happen?” and “How do I keep my kitchen safe?” No one wants to be sick during the holidays!

While there are thousands of germs that can make us sick, the highly contagious, the norovisus is one of the most common forms of food poisoning. Causing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, it can live up to 2 weeks on kitchen surfaces and be transfer with the touch of our hands.

The good news is that in as little as 20 seconds, washing your hands can get rid of most all germs causing food poisoning and even the common flu can be eliminated from your hands. Staying safe and well make handwashing more important than ever!

Coincidentally, Dec 6 – 12 is National Handwashing Awareness Week, and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to be sure everyone knows how to wash their hands correctly and when handwashing should NEVER be skipped.

I wish the folks at Chili’s heard the eat-right-radio interview I did just two days ago with Melanie Cole, MS, the Director of Operations at RadioMD. Here are some of the highlights.

Washing your hands is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Wet hands with warm running water and apply soap. Always wash your hands front and back up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  2. Sing two choruses of “Happy Birthday” while you lather up — cleaning your hands for 20 seconds.
  3. Dry hands with disposable paper towels, clean cloth towels or air dry.

When should handwashing NEVER be skipped?  I think of it as the “before” and “after” rule.

Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water BEFORE handling any foods that you or someone else will eat.

  • Before handling food
  • Before preparing food
  • Before you eat
  • Before you feed children

Simple.

And the other half of the “before” and “after” rule for washing hands…Always wash your hands AFTER tasks where potentially harmful germs are most common.  Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water

  • After preparing food
  • Never forget to wash your hands after switching tasks, such as handling raw meat, pouty and seafood and then cutting vegetables.
  • This also includes after touching eggs and egg-rich foods

Don’t forget to clean the counter tops, cutting boards, utensils and plate surfaces where raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs have come in contact. Wash dishwasher-safe items in a dishwasher with a hot washing and drying cycle.

After washing utensils and surfaces in your kitchen, you can sanitize everything with a solution of one tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach mixed in one gallon of water.

Speaking of preventing food poisoning in the kitchen, the MOST OVERLOOKED WAY GERMS ARE SPRED in the kitchen is with the kitchen sponge and dishrags.

Bacteria thrive in the damp conditions of old dirty sponges which then can spread foodborne pathogens. Don’t wait for the sponge or dishcloth to start to smell – a sure sign of unsafe bacterial growth. Replace worn sponged frequently.

The kitchen sponge can come in contact with a lot of dirty surfaces in the day. Make it a point to disinfect the used sponge daily by microwaving it or running it through the hot washing and drying cycle of the dishwasher.

Frequently trade out used towels for clean ones. And, be sure they are washed on the hot cycle of your washing machine.

It’s not wasteful to stay well. Use clean paper towels to wipe up spills or wipe kitchen surfaces. This way when the mess is cleaned, the germs on the towels are thrown away reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Check out this list of other times when handwashing is a MUST for keeping everyone safe. Don’t skip the link if you eat at your computer, have a pet or have recently touched your cell phone.