Don't Let Your Kitchen Make You Sick

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There are few places I’d rather be than in my kitchen, whether it’s trying a new recipe or entertaining friends and family. But the kitchen can be a dangerous place. There are sharp knives, hot stoves and boiling water. Of course, we have to worry about spoiled foods and raw meats that can cause food poisoning and other illnesses if not prepared and stored properly.

Three in 10 house fires start in the kitchen, more than any other room in the house, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, people over the age of 65 are at a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than those younger.

As CICOA prepares for its annual Safe at Home event, I thought it was a great opportunity to discuss how you can ensure your safety in the kitchen.

Prevent falls, burns and cuts

We need to prepare our kitchens so they are safe for us to maneuver easily to reduce the risk of tripping, slipping and falling.

  • Install bright lights so you can easily see your recipe, read food labels, oven and stove temperature dials and more.
  • To prevent the chance of falls, avoid storing items in hard-to-reach cabinets.
  • Store heavy items at waist level, which makes it easier to lift, and it’s easier on your back.
  • When cooking, turn handles inward, to avoid spilling hot pans.
  • Some of us like to wear an apron in the kitchen, but footwear is important, too. Wear non-slip shoes while cooking to help prevent falls, and also protect your feet in case you drop a knife or heavy object.

Don’t let your kitchen make you sick

There are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness every year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 5,000 deaths. Because aging adults tend to have lower immune systems, they can succumb to food poisoning more easily, and seniors often have a harder time fighting it off when they get sick.

Here are some tips to help you avoid illness:

  • Keep raw meats and veggies separate. It’s best to have two cutting boards, one for meats and the other for fruits and vegetables. An easy way to remember which is which is to have a red one for meats and a green one for produce. Also, store meats and vegetables in separate containers.
  • Temperatures matter. Make sure your refrigerator is at 40-degrees Fahrenheit or less and keep your freezer temperature at zero degrees.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and after handling any raw meats, fruits and vegetables.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or under cold running water instead of letting it sit on the counter to thaw.
  • Do a monthly inventory of your refrigerator and throw away items that are beyond their expiration date. A good rule of thumb: fresh deli meats are only good for five to six days, raw chicken or turkey only lasts a day or two, while cooked meats can last three to four days. When in doubt, throw it out. It’s not worth the risk.
  • A clean kitchen not only looks good, but it’s healthier. The refrigerator door handle, sink and microwave or oven door handle often harbor the most harmful bacteria in the kitchen, so clean them all every time you clean your kitchen counter. Also, the less clutter you have, the easy it is to cook, bake and prepare meals.

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