Kitchen food safety: bags, bottles & beyond

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

By ANGELA TREADAWAY / Guest Columnist

When we think kitchen food safety, the following unsafe practices may not come to mind. They should. Do you avoid them? Please do!

-Using non-food grade materials.

Just because a material looks like a suitable food container doesn’t make it safe for food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says brown paper bags should not be used for cooking.

The ink, glue, and recycled materials in paper bags can emit toxic fumes when they are exposed to heat. Instead, use purchased oven cooking bags.

Film canisters and plastic trash bags should not be used for food storage. If a product isn’t sold to hold food, don’t use it for this purpose. Use small food storage containers instead.

-Reusing one-time-use items.

While some items should not be used with foods, others should be used only once, and then for their intended purpose. Plastic wrap, foam meat trays, convenience food dishes and egg cartons are good examples. Reusing any of these opens up the possibility of bacteria remaining on the packaging and contaminating other foods or hands.

It is better to buy a reusable water bottle and use that instead of reusing a bottle in which water is sold. The plastic water bottles in which water is sold are intended for single service. They are hard to clean and dry.

Don’t reuse disposable plastic utensils, cups and containers. This category includes plastic forks, spoons and knives, plastic cups, and containers from cottage cheese, sour cream, chip dip, milk, etc.

These items are not made of materials designed for repeated use or repeated cleaning with hot soap and water. These containers are developed for specific types and temperatures of foods and may not stand up to all foods, such as high acid or hot foods.

Some wooden food-related items, such as popsicle sticks and shish kabob skewers, are intended for one-time use. If you want to reuse shish kabob sticks, buy the metal ones. Rather than reuse popsicle sticks, purchase one of the containers for making popsicles that comes with reusable handles.

Glass jars can be cleaned and reused; however, you must be careful of reusing the lids. Lids with a non-cleanable liner, such as a waxed cardboard liner, should not be reused.

For more tips on safety in the kitchen, read next week’s column.

Angela Treadaway is the Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation and Preparation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached at 410-3696.