You know you shouldn’t chop your veggies on the same cutting board you used to slice raw chicken, and that using a meat thermometer is the only reliable way to tell that your meat is cooked properly. But here are four food poisoning pitfalls to avoid. 

1. Reusing the Same Shopping Bag

Totes made out of cloth can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Juices can drip from the packages of raw meat and contaminate the bag. 

A safer move: Don’t switch back to plastic. Instead, wash your cloth bags frequently in the washing machine using hot water. At the store, consider slipping the raw meat you buy into a plastic produce bag and sealing it tightly before you put it into your cloth grocery bag at checkout. If you want to be even more cautious, pack all uncooked meat, poultry, and seafood in disposable bags, or designate one cloth bag for such foods.

2. Storing Raw Meat on the Top Shelf of the Fridge

Disease-causing bacteria from raw meat or poultry can spread to foods you wouldn’t suspect and make you seriously ill. Case in point: A few years ago, 60 people who worked at the same Connecticut company were sickened with E. coli 0157, a potentially deadly bacteria. When health officials investigated, they discovered that all the employees had eaten chicken tenders in the company’s cafeteria. That was puzzling because chicken is not a typical source of this type of E. coli. And it turns out that it wasn’t in this case either. The officials discovered that the real culprit was partially cooked ground beef that had been stored right above the already-roasted chicken tenders. Juices from the beef dripped on the chicken, which was served without further cooking.

A safer move: Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, where it’s cooler anyway. Be sure they are securely stored in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent the juices from contaminating other foods. Clean up any spills in the fridge immediately, and at least once a month thoroughly clean shelves and all other surfaces inside. For an extra measure of food safety, you can wipe them down with a mixture of one teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water. 

3. Rinsing Chicken and Turkey Before Cooking

There’s no culinary or cleanliness benefit to doing this, and it could make you sick. Washing the bird could splash bacteria all over your sink, your countertops, and nearby utensils or dishes.

A safer move: Skip this step and save yourself some time.

4. Never Checking Your Fridge's Temperature

Some types of disease-causing bacteria can breed and spread rapidly in your refrigerator if the temperature inside isn’t cold enough.

A safer step: Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature regularly. It should be below 40° F (our experts recommend 37° F as ideal) and the freezer should be no higher than 0° F for optimal food safety.