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Your checklist for a clean kitchen

From top to bottom, a clean kitchen is a main line of defense between your family and the spread of colds, flu, and food borne illness. Before you prepare and enjoy foods in your kitchen, eliminate the breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria: * Everyone in your family should wash their hands often - front and back, between fingers, under fingernails - in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after every step in preparing or eating foods. That includes your kitchen helpers, such as children. * Clean all work surfaces often to remove food particles and spills. Use hot, soapy water. Keep non-food items - mail, newspapers, and purses - off the counters and away from food utensils. Wash the counter carefully before and after food preparation. * Wash dishes and cookware in the dishwasher or in hot, soapy water, and always rinse them well. Remember that chipped plates and china can collect bacteria. * Change towels and dishcloths often and wash them in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Allow them to dry out between each use. If they are damp, theyre the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Throw out dirty sponges or wash them in a bleach-water solution. * On any appliance, clean spills right away. Wash appliance with hot, soapy water. Pay close attention to the refrigerator and the freezer - shelves, sides and door - where foods are stored. Pack perishables in coolers while you clean or defrost your refrigerator or freezer. Splatters inside your microwave can also collect bacteria, so keep it clean.

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