When It Comes to Food, Be Safe Not Sorry

Experts offer advice to ensure healthy eating

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6. Watch the time.

When you're out shopping, keep an eye on how long you let perishable foods sit in your car. During the winter, when temperatures are below 40 degrees F, you have considerable leeway, Luptowski noted. But on hot summer days, you have less than an hour to get your food home.

Hanes recommends putting a cooler in the car if you know you're going to be out for a bit. Better yet, both experts said, make the grocery store your last stop and pick up perishable foods at the end of your shopping trip.

If you lose your power, food in the fridge (if it's been closed) will generally stay safe for about four hours. How long food in the freezer lasts depends on how full your freezer is. In a half-full freezer, food will stay frozen for about 24 hours, Hanes said, but in a full freezer, it might stay frozen up to 48 hours.

7. Skip the energy buzz.

Energy drinks often contain large doses of caffeine and other stimulants, but these products aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Mega doses of caffeine from any source can have harmful side effects," said Frasieur. "Also, little research has been done to show the impacts of combining caffeine with other stimulant ingredients included in many energy drinks."

Children, pregnant women and anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid these drinks, she said.

"Consumers should consider why they are low in energy and using energy drinks in the first place," Frasieur said. "A balanced diet, regular exercise, stress reduction and adequate sleep should reduce the need for energy drink consumption."

8. Clean it.

Many people use their kitchen sponges for a variety of tasks, which often makes the kitchen sponge the germiest thing in a kitchen, said Luptowski. But, she said, "you can prolong the life of your sponge by wetting it, and then microwaving it for two minutes to kill the germs."

She also recommends having separate sponges for human dishes and dog bowls because, contrary to popular belief, Fido's mouth just isn't very clean.

If you've prepared food that could potentially harbor bacteria, such as raw meat, Luptowski suggested running your dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle. The cycle takes longer and uses more energy, but it ensures that any pathogens are killed. Those who don't have a dishwasher, she said, can sanitize dishes by washing them in hot, soapy water, then dunking them in a gallon of hot water with a capful of bleach in it and then rinsing the dishes.

More information

The U.S. government website FoodSafety.gov has more on food safety.

To read about one reporter's near-fatal bout of food poisoning, click here.

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