Here are some tips for avoiding food-borne illnesses:
The best thing to do is to have a plan before placing food in the refrigerator, particularly with leftovers, said Dr. J. Peter Rissing, chief of infectious diseases at Medical College of Georgia. If you don't plan on eating it within the next few days, freeze it, he said.
Sally Fisher, MCG food-services director, said people who do a week's worth of grocery shopping at a time should consider freezing items intended for later in the week.
Raw poultry and meats can pose a danger even if you wash the cutting board where you chopped them. Mrs. Fisher recommends washing the cutting board with a mild bleach solution to kill some of the bacteria before reusing it.
No perishable food should be left out for more than two hours at room temperature, said Betty English of the University of Georgia Extension Service in Augusta. The hotter it is, the less time food should be left unrefrigerated, and in the summer an hour is the most you would want to risk, she said. If you have a buffet, use something to keep the food hot or use ice to keep the food cold. Hot means 165 degrees and above; cold means 40 degrees and below.
Watch what you wipe with. Mrs. Fisher recommends replacing kitchen sponges or washcloths every few weeks and being careful with items used to wash down a surface where raw meat was cut or placed. One suggestion - put those sponges through the dishwasher to disinfect them, but be careful that the sponge isn't free to fly around inside and get lodged in the motor, she said.
That "sell-by" date on the package is a good guideline until you open the package. Once the seal is broken, food can spoil well before the date. Egg substitute, for instance, can last two weeks unopened, but once the pop is topped it should be used in a couple days or be discarded, said Joyce Smart, a spokeswoman for Bi-Lo Inc. Ditto for hotdogs - two weeks unopened, three to five days opened.