Newswise — CHICAGO – You know to wash your hands before eating — but many people aren’t aware of other common kitchen mistakes that can cause illness. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to practice food safety before, during and after preparing your meals. 

Keep It Clean 

“Always wash your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Isabel Maples, a national spokesperson for the Academy. “Don’t forget to wash your hands after handling raw meat and poultry to avoid spreading germs through the juices.” 

Wash fruits and vegetables, but don’t wash meat and poultry prior to cooking to avoid spreading possibly harmful bacteria to your sink and surrounding kitchen areas, Maples says. 

“Clean your countertops with hot, soapy water. Use paper towels or disinfectant wipes, instead of washcloths or sponges, which can harbor bacteria,” Maples says. 

Maples adds: “Take apart small kitchen appliances, such as blenders and can openers, to clean them. Allow them to completely air dry before putting them away. Clean your refrigerator every few weeks to rid it of potentially dangerous residue from raw foods. Rid your refrigerator of leftovers after four days. When in doubt, throw it out.” 

Cook It Right 

“Using a food thermometer is the only real way to know if meat is done. It can help you avoid under-or over- cooking food by assessing the internal temperature,” Maples says. “Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, without it touching the bones or the bottom of the pan, to avoid getting a false reading. Then clean your thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use.” 

Keep It Hot or Cold 

“Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold,” Maples says. “Avoid letting your food become lukewarm because that’s the temperature where microbes can multiply quickly. Divide hot food into shallow containers to cool faster. Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours — or within one hour during warmer weather.” 

Do not thaw frozen foods on the counter, she says. Instead, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Harmful foodborne pathogens multiply rapidly when foods are in the temperature danger zone between 40° F and 140° F. 

Store It Right 

“Store foods in the correct area of the refrigerator,” Maples says. “To minimize the risk of raw juices dripping into other foods, put cooked and ready-to-eat foods at the top and raw meats and poultry at the bottom. Plus, place raw meats in a container to catch any drips.” 

Store food in containers or wrapped with plastic or foil to prevent cross contamination. Take a tip from the pros and label and date foods to keep track of their freshness, Maples says. 

National Nutrition Month® 2019 

National Nutrition Month®, celebrated each March, encourages people to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits all year long.  

The Academy’s National Nutrition Month® website includes articles, recipes, videos, radio public service announcements and educational resources to spread the message of good nutrition and the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Follow the Academy’s social media channels including Facebook and Twitter using #NationalNutritionMonth. 


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at