by Kim Beavers, MS, RD, LD, CDE

Proper food handling and preparation can make the difference between feeding your family nourishing meals or accidentally giving them a foodborne illness.  Foodborne illness is mainly contracted through poor personal hygiene in the kitchen (yikes), cross- contamination (yikes)  and time-temperature abuse (also yikes). The main microorganisms of concern are E. coli, salmonella, listeria and fungi. Fortunately, keeping your family safe, healthy and with bellies full is easy with a few kitchen safety tips.

Practicing proper personal hygiene habits is first on the list to prevent foodborne illness.  Make sure to properly wash hands prior to handling food (use warm water with soap and scrub for 20 seconds). Make sure to wash hands after handling raw meat and prior to beginning cooking.  Ensuring that kitchen equipment is properly clean is equally important. Properly washing kitchen gadgets such as can openers, rubber spatulas and blender gaskets can also help prevent contamination.

Avoiding cross-contamination is an easy way to prevent illness. Cross-contamination is the transfer of microorganisms from one surface to the other. For example, using the same cutting board to cut raw meat and vegetables. To prevent cross-contamination, make sure to thoroughly wash cutting boards with soap and water between handling raw meat and produce or ready to eat foods. Better yet use specific cutting board for raw meat only.  When storing raw meat, make sure to store it on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator to avoid drippings from the meat contaminating other foods. Avoiding cross-contamination will help prevent listeria, salmonella and E. coli.

Proper time and temperature control is a third way to avoid foodborne illness. Most microorganisms that cause illness grow in the temperature danger zone of 41 degrees and 135 degrees. If foods remain in this temperature zone for more than four hours, the pathogens begin to grow. Therefore, you should try to refrigerate foods as soon as you come home from the grocery store.  It is also wise to defrost foods in the refrigerator rather than overnight on the counter. Left-over foods should be put away within two hours.  Making sure that ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees can prevent E. coli. Furthermore, ensuring that poultry and eggs are cooked to internal temperatures of 165 degrees and 145 degrees espectively can help prevent Salmonella.

The CSRA gets very hot in the summer, which is great for outdoor picnics and activities but can make it necessary for extra food safety precautions. When bringing food to a picnic, make sure to use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs to ensure that food stays at its proper temperature and to avoid pathogen growth. Additionally, a cooler that is filled up will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is only partially filled.  If you are serving food outdoor in temperatures above 90 degrees, food should not sit out for more than one hour (note this is a change from the standard 2 hour rule).  Follow those tips and check out the government’s food safety website to ensure your family has a healthy, delicious summer.

Mother-in-law Chicken Salad
My Mother-in-law makes the best chicken salad I have ever tasted. The celery and almonds provide great crunch without overwhelming the chicken salad…enjoy

2 cups chopped cooked chicken (½ dark and ½ white or all white meat)*

1 ½ cups celery, chopped

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

½ cup fat free mayonnaise

¼ cup plain fat-free yogurt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

For a smooth texture put the dark meat or half the chicken (if using only white meat) into the food processor with ¼ cup of the mayonnaise.  Pulse chicken mixture until a smooth base is achieved. Transfer chicken base to a medium bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours to let flavors meld.

Yield:  6 servings (1/2 cup per serving)

Nutrient breakdown:  Calories 150, Fat 7g (4g monounsaturated fat, 1g saturated fat); Cholesterol 40mg, Sodium 350mg, Carbohydrate 6g, Fiber 2g, Protein 18g

* Nutrient analysis done with half dark and half white meat and NO skin.

Kim’s note:  This is also good with rotisserie chicken.  If using rotisserie chicken the sodium content will be higher so reduce the salt in the recipe if using rotisserie.  Cook’s note:  To toast the almonds place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for about five minutes (or until they are fragrant and begin to turn brown).  Watch them closely as they burn quickly.

Serving suggestion:

Whole wheat rolls or whole wheat crackers

Whole lettuce leafs to make lettuce wraps

Kim Beavers is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator for University Health Care System. She lives in North Augusta with her husband and two children and she is the co-host of the culinary nutrition segment Eating Well with Kim, which airs at noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday on WRDW. To be notified of new recipes join Kim’s facebook fan page at To search for specific recipes go to You can also watch the segments at


This article appears in the June/July 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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