Although I am not exactly fearful of germs, I do hate the idea of showing up in the Emergency Department with a food-borne illness.  It's like a tone deaf musics instructor - it's just so unexpected.

We have guidelines we must use in quantity food production to minimize bacterial growth in food during the storage, preparation, and serving of foods.   These same guidelines can be applied in homes.  Most of them are very common sense and I see people following them, but others are commonly not followed or have questions about and should be mentioned.

The last blog concerned the dreaded hand towel - the potential carrier of food particles and bacteria.  Likewise, we should concern ourselves with dish cloths and sponges.  Let's pick on sponges first.  It is recommended not to use them to clean dishes or counters multiple times.  They are porous and can harbor bacteria.  Some have stated they run them through the dish machine for cleaning and sanitizing, which is brilliant - but it is still recommended not to use sponges.  When it comes to dish cloths, I suppose I would be elated if I came into my kitchen and found the cloth laid out to dry rather than wadded up in the bottom of the sink growing bacteria. And, although many choose to use the sniff check to determine if it is time to wash the cloth, I tend to error on the side of caution and use a fresh cloth every day.  I do not know if there have been studies on how long you can repeatedly use a dish cloth in the home without rewashing, but since the goal is to end with clean dishes my conclusion is to let a used one dry out until you throw it into the laundry and use a fresh cloth every day.

Questions come up about food storage usually around Easter.  Just how long can you let the eggs set out before you turn them into ham salad?  The rule of thumb is 4 hours total in the danger zone (40-140 degrees F) especially for protein-containing foods that need refrigeration.  That includes the time in preparation, cooling, serving, etc.  There are more people that have always eaten boiled eggs that have remained at room temperature and never been ill because of it than those who have, I am sure.  Some state they recall leaving mayonnaise out on the table all the time and no one ever got sick.  (This is the defense heard against the guidelines.) 

Saving left overs too long can also be an issue.  Fish and seafood - eat it within a day.  Other leftovers should be consumed in three days.  If food handling was not what it should be during preparation, serving, and cooling, pushing this could be a real gamble.

So I suppose rather than having a fear of germs, I have a fear of making myself sick when it could have been avoided.  Keep foods at the proper temperature as much as possible.  Clean food preparation surfaces before and after food preparation.  Keep your hands and other things that come into contact with cooking items clean.  Plan your meals well to avoid holding on to food too long or food wastage.   And if Aunt Sara left her quiche out all night to cool for the next day's gathering...take a small serving and move it around with your fork after you are done using your fork to make it look like you ate some.  If you do not remember how to do that, ask any kid to assist.  It's just better to be safe than sorry.