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Prairie Fare: Spring Clean Your Way to a Safer Kitchen

Julie Garden-Robinson Julie Garden-Robinson
Even though spring brings us warmer outdoor temperatures, we need cold storage temperatures in our kitchens.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Maybe it’s not spring outside, but I’m getting rid of winter inside our house,” I announced to my husband.

He had a concerned look on his face, the one many husbands get when their wives have project ideas.

I could almost hear his thoughts: “How much stuff am I going to have to move? Will I be painting something?”

“Mom, it’s storming outside,” one of my kids said. “Why are you taking down the snowmen?”

“It’s spring break and Easter is coming. The snow is supposed to be gone,” I said, as though my interior decorating could somehow influence the weather.

I was a whirlwind of activity. After gathering my snowman collection and packing it away, I unpacked pots of brightly colored tulips, my bunny collection and flowered throws and pillows.

To top it off, my daughter went outside and built a snow bunny.

Truth be told, I wanted that snow creation to melt quickly.

Spring brings renewal. As grass appears and tulips and daffodils revive the outdoors with color, spring’s warmer weather and sunlight energize us, too.

Use your renewed energy to focus on food safety and spring clean your way to a safer kitchen. Start by checking your refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Even though spring brings us warmer outdoor temperatures, we need cold storage temperatures in our kitchens.

Your refrigerator should maintain food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Your freezer should maintain foods solidly frozen at zero degrees or lower.

According to a study by the American Dietetic Association, only 40 percent of consumers recognized that eating food that had been stored in a refrigerator above 40 F increased their risk of foodborne illness.

Consider these tips from the national Fight BAC campaign to keep a clean, safe kitchen this spring and throughout the year:

  • Rid your refrigerator of spills, bacteria and mold. Clean refrigerator surfaces with hot, soapy water, rinse with a damp cloth and dry with a clean cloth. Manufacturers do not recommend using a chlorine-based sanitizer in your refrigerator because it may damage seals, gaskets and linings.
  • Wash counters and other food-contact surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Sanitize surfaces with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. Let the solution air-dry or use clean paper towels to dry.
  • Do a food inventory. Do you have food past its prime lurking in your refrigerator or cupboard? Move your oldest food to the front and make plans to find recipes to use it soon. Remember the rule, too: When in doubt, toss it out.
  • Wash your dishcloths in hot, soapy water. If you use sponges, remember that microbiologists have shown them to be germ hotels. Using a clean dishcloth every day is a better option.
  • Clean your kitchen sink drain and disposal once or twice a week. Bacteria can thrive in the food trapped in a disposal. Rinse thoroughly and sanitize by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 quart of water down the drain.

If you discover some cans of beans as you do your kitchen inventory, try this recipe. It’s worth a trip to the store to pick up some items, too. This recipe also would be tasty with grilled burgers. The recipe is from the Canned Food Alliance Web site at

5-minute Bean Salad

1 (8-ounce) can green beans, drained

1 (8-ounce) can yellow beans, drained

1 (8-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium red onion, sliced in rings

1 green pepper, seeded, stemmed and sliced in rings

1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. vinegar

1/3 c. oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Mix the beans in a serving bowl. Place the onion and green pepper rings on top of the beans. Mix the sugar, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper to taste until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour over the bean mixture. Chill for an hour.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 22 g of carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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