Raw meats, fish and poultry may contain bacteria or other organisms that can cause food borne illnesses. Cooking the foods at high enough temperatures usually kills the bugs and makes the food safe to eat.

However, there's a safety threat even before the food reaches oven, stove or grill. When preparing your meals, it's important to clean all surfaces that have touched the meat, fish or poultry so that the surfaces don't "cross-contaminate" other foods you're handling -- for example, vegetables, breads or other side dishes.

Some safety measures are more obvious than others:

  • CUTTING BOARDS. Wash with hot soapy water; simply rinsing or wiping off a cutting board is not sufficient.
  • KNIVES. Don't trim your meats and immediately use the same knife for cutting vegetables. Wash the knife thoroughly before switching tasks.
  • "TASTING" SPOONS. Don't taste with the same spoon you've stirred with. The spoon could have picked up some bacteria before the dish was heated thoroughly.
  • PLATTERS AND TRAYS. If you're carrying raw foods from kitchen to an outside grill, don't use the same tray to transport the cooked items back into the house -- unless you've given it a thorough, hot bath in between.