Public health and safety organization NSF International surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to learn what their biggest kitchen pet peeves are. Turns out there are double standards when it comes to double dipping and we are all in need of a food safety refresher. About four in 10 (43 percent) Americans report that they have gotten sick or had an upset stomach after eating something at a dinner party or gathering.

Follow these quick food safety tips to avoid food poisoning at your next holiday dinner party!

  1. Don’t cross-contaminate your cutting board. Wash it with hot soapy water in between each use, especially when switching from raw food like meats and fish to ready-to-eat food like fruits and vegetables. Consider using multiple color-coded cutting boards to make preparing food easier. For instance, always use a red cutting board for slicing raw meats and a green cutting board for chopping vegetables. Making this distinction can help avoid cross-contamination during the chaos of cooking.
  2. Never leave your sponge or dish cloth in the sink. An NSF International Germ Study found that 75 percent of kitchen sponges and dish cloths contained coliform bacteria, a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli. Between uses, allow your sponge to fully dry. You can also microwave wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day to reduce germs, while dish cloths can be washed in a washing machine on the hot cycle with bleach. Both should be replaced often.
  3. Wash your hands frequently. Germs and illnesses spread easily on hands. Wash them with warm soapy water for 20 seconds both before and after handling food, especially when handling raw items. Teach children the importance of proper handwashing at an early age.  Tools and fun activities can be found at scrubclub.org.
  4. Clean kitchen utensils with soap and water after each use. Utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water after each use.  NSF’s Germ Study found Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold on common kitchen appliances such as blender gaskets and can openers because the items were not properly disassembled and then cleaned and dried before storage.
  5. Dry kitchen appliances and utensils thoroughly before putting them away. Dark, warm, moist environments are breeding grounds for germs, as Salmonella and E. coli were found in blenders and on rubber spatulas in the NSF Germ Study. After washing kitchen appliances and utensils with warm soapy water, allow them to air dry completely before storing. NSF International tests and certifies several appliances and utensils used in the home to ensure proper cleaning including dishwashers, blenders, coffee makers, etc.
  6. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Never let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than two hours or let their temperatures reach above 40ºF. Keep cold items in the refrigerator until just before you serve them, then use ice trays or bowls to help keep these items properly cooled. Always use warming dishes or keep hot foods stored in the oven if possible.
  7. Don’t double dip with either fingers or utensils. Double dipping can spread germs to an entire room full of guests. And just because you’re cooking something warm doesn’t mean any bacteria you’re introducing to the food will be killed.  Always use a new, clean utensil if you taste a dish while cooking, and never use your fingers to grab a sample.
  8. Don’t wash your chicken or turkey. Washing raw poultry can splash bacteria onto countertops, dishes, other food and even you! Proper cooking will kill the bacteria, so there is no need to wash your chicken or turkey before preparing it.
  9. Never cook while sick. Coughing, sneezing and breathing around food can get your guests sick in an instant. Avoid the spread of germs and illness by calling a caterer or asking a friend or family member to take over in the kitchen. Also be sure to clean and sanitize your kitchen and home thoroughly if guests are still coming over.
  10. Keep separate towels for drying hands and dishes. To avoid cross-contamination, keep the towel you use to dry your dishes separate from the towel intended for drying hands.  By using the same towel, you risk spreading the germs from the hand towel onto your clean dishes.

See more food safety tips or learn more about NSF International’s Household Germ Study.