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For the Love of Dogs

Basic Food Safety Tips for the Average Pet Owner

· Food Safety,Consulting,FSVP,FSMA,FDA

Who doesn't love dog kisses? Well, yeah, not everyone does, I suppose, but you cannot deny that pet owners have a special bond with their fur-baby children. I have been discovering how my fur-babies are destroying my couch, but that is another topic for another day.

I realized that many conversations that I have as a friend, sister, daughter and professional center around basic food safety tips. I guess you could say I am passionate about educating people (remember me saying? "People don't know what they don't know.") on food safety. I like being the go to person in their life about food safety practices. But these conversations mean that there is a lot of confusing and incorrect information out there on basic food safety tips for the average person - and even more for the average pet owner.

So here is a top 10 list from me to you - dog lover to dog lover.

  1. Wash your hands often and before you handle any food
  2. Wash your hands between different foods (produce and meat, meat and meat, meat and produce, grains and meat, EVERYTHING) to prevent cross contamination. 
  3. Wash your hands when you touch your face, blow your nose, smoke a cigarette, pet your dog, feed your dog, go to the bathroom, just handled the trash, shake someone's hand, have your hand kissed by the love of your life (pet or human), and any other time you might have had your hand near something that is dirty. 
  4. Wash your produce thoroughly, but you do not need to wash meat per other food safety experts. 
  5. Clean your prep area before and after prepping meals - use a cleanser that cleans and disinfects the surface and use a clean paper towel or clean washcloth to prevent cross contamination. (NO SPONGES ALLOWED). 
  6. Clean your prep area between different food types (see #2). 
  7. Wrap and store foods within 2 hours of cooking, preferably earlier. (We food safety people understand that you have visiting to do with those guests, but it's really important to put away products that could grow bacteria - it can start exponentially growing on your foods within 15 minutes of cooking!). 
  8. Cooking temps: Poultry - 165°F; Beef & Game Meat - 160°F; Pork & Seafood - 145°F; Unpasteurized Dairy - 161°F. These temps are scientifically proven to kill bacteria that can make you sick. You can't see the bacteria, so how do you expect to see if it's dead? Thermometers tell you that. Here are some tips from the United States Department of Agriculture on proper use of a Kitchen Thermometer. And for a more thorough cooking temp guide, use Minnesota's well-organized guide.  
  9. Keep warm foods warm and cold foods cold while serving. If it's meant to be warm, make sure it stays warm. Many food borne illness outbreaks of the past stemmed from improper holding temps of the foods. Leave it on the burner or in the crockpot - you don't have to have everything on the table.  
  10. Allergen controls - if you make foods for any type of distribution, check your allergens. There are 8 big ones recognized in the U.S. and 16 in Canada.  Tips to do this: keep your cooking prep area free of the allergens unless being used in a recipe, store them in separate areas of the pantry, separate areas of the fridge, separate containers, on the bottom shelves if they are in bags that could spill on top of something else.... 
  11. BONUS: Be an example to your kids how to properly handle foods. They are watching and learning your good and bad habits! And keep in mind, these same rules apply for your pets at home for their food - whether you cook it or not, allergens are allergens and unclean surfaces contain bacteria. Help keep your entire family safe! 
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