48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses every year. E coli piggyback into your home on beef and even salad greens. Raw chicken is highly likely to be contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter. Norovirus turns up in sandwiches and mayonnaise-dressed salads. Fortunately, kitchen cleaning can ensure food safety.

Can you be sure your food is clean?

Contaminated food is one of the top sources of food borne illness. You might think you could just avoid contaminated food and be safe, but it isn’t actually that simple. Your local grocery store follows strict food safety regulations, and all the stops along the food chain from the farm to the store are highly regulated. Even so, raw meats and fresh produce are likely to have bacteria on them.

Then can you wash the food? Sometimes you should. For example, you should wash your fruits and veggies in running water. Washing meat or chicken is a bad idea, though.

Raw chicken is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to bacteria, but rinsing chicken will not kill or clean off bacteria. It will, however, spread bacteria around your kitchen.

The best way to kill bacteria in animal foods is to cook those foods completely. Keep an instant-read thermometer in your kitchen and make sure your food is fully cooked before serving.

Clean your surfaces for food safety

If you can’t clean your food completely, does kitchen cleanliness matter to food safety? Absolutely. Your fully and safely cooked chicken can end up contaminated. Cut your raw chicken on a cutting board and then use the same cutting board to cut vegetables, and you can end up with salmonella bacteria on your vegetables.

Salmonella bacteria can live for several days on your counter. Rinse your chicken, and your sink can be contaminated. The next day you might set a knife in the sink and then pick it up to cut something — it looks clean, right? You’re spreading salmonella.

A recent study at North Carolina State University found that 25% of participants contaminated their salads with bacteria from chicken when they prepared a meal featuring both dishes. They found that many of the 300 subjects in the study didn’t clean their sinks and counters thoroughly between preparing the chicken and fixing their salads. “The study highlights the importance of hand-washing and cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness when cooking at home,” the researchers concluded.

Tidy, clean, or disinfect?

A tidy kitchen is one in which items are picked up and put away. You don’t have a sink full of dirty dishes, mail or kids’ school papers on the counter, or toys on the floor. Tidiness may not seem to have much to do with food safety, but in fact those random objects can introduce bacteria and viruses into your kitchen.

Cleaning involves washing, scrubbing, and removing dirt and grime. It’s essential to clean first, before you disinfect. Disinfecting works best when surface dirt has been removed. Clean with soap and water or green cleaners.

Disinfect clean surfaces. You can use a commercial disinfectant or traditional disinfectants like bleach or ammonia — but never combine bleach and ammonia. That can create toxic fumes.

At A Beautiful Day, we use green cleaners, and use stronger chemicals only when they are needed.