Safe food handling: To rinse or not

June 27th, 2015 1:26 am

First Posted: 6/20/2013

Washing fruits and vegetables is a must as they are grown near the ground where animals, insects and even birds may contaminate the produce. Fruits and vegetables are also picked and handled by numerous people before they arrive in the store. Then at the store or farmers market, various folks pick up the produce to wrap or inspect. All fruits and vegetables need to be rinsed with clean drinkable water before eating. What about meat? Should we be rinsing our meats?

Traditionally, I can’t ever remember someone recommending that we wash our beef burger before tossing it on the grill; however, I do know of folks who rinse boneless chicken before cooking. Do meats need to be rinsed before cooking?

USDA does not recommend washing any raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it. This is a common mistake which can actually increase bacteria in your kitchen sink. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces, otherwise known as cross contamination. Some folks think they are removing bacteria by washing the meat first. The best way to remove bacteria is to cook it until the bacteria is killed.

The best way to ensure that bacteria are killed in meats is to use a food thermometer to check its temperature. According to USDA, internal temperatures to kill bacteria for beef, veal, lamb and now pork (steaks, roasts and chops) is145 degrees. Cook poultry until it reaches 165 degrees. Cook ground beef burgers until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Food thermometers are reasonably priced. When selecting one, choose one that can be calibrated and reads from 0 degrees to 220 degrees. It is important to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, at least 1 inch into the meat.

Rinse all fruits and vegetable before eating. Do not rinse raw meats or poultry. If you want to learn even more about common food safety mistakes, visit

Chicken Ratatouille

4 chicken breast halves (cut into 1-inch pieces)

2 zucchini (7 inches long, unpeeled and thinly sliced)

1 eggplant (small, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes)

1 onion (medium, thinly sliced)

1 green pepper (medium, cut into 1-inch pieces)

1⁄2 pound mushroom (fresh, sliced)

1 can tomatoes (16 oz, whole, cut up)

1 garlic clove (minced)

1 1⁄2 teaspoon basil (dried, crushed)

1 tablespoon

Parsley (fresh, minced)

Black pepper (to taste)

Heat a small amount of olive oil in large non-stick skillet. Add chicken and sauté about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add zucchini, eggplant, onion, green pepper, and mushrooms. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, and pepper; stir and continue cooking about 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

Serves 4.