Every change of season I like to reorganize my office and give myself a fresh start. As I do it, I am reminded that while it’s important for me to be organized, it’s also important to have a healthy, safe work place whether I’m working at home or in an outside office. This is especially important because when it comes to food safety, the place that’s often overlooked is the office kitchen, lunchroom or workspace.
Did you know that your desktop, unknowingly, can be one of the dirtiest places in your office? Between the phone, computer mouse, keyboard and the desktop, there are lots of surfaces that are touched by many and don’t often get cleaned. If you also eat there, food crumbs can get lodged in your keyboard or spills may not get properly cleaned up. All this can create a breeding ground for bacteria that can potentially make you sick. In addition, if you bring your lunch or share a lunch room with your co-workers, its important that you follow basic food safety guidelines.
Here are some tips:
- At least once a week, clean the surface of your desk, keyboard and mouse with a disinfecting wipe.
- Keep moist towelettes in your desk drawer so you can wipe your hands before and after eating or touching food.
- If you like to keep snacks in your desk drawer, have things that aren’t perishable such as nuts, whole wheat crackers, whole fruit or single serving containers of unsweetened fruit, dried fruit, granola bars or even a small bag of cereal or trail mix.
- If you bring perishable foods like meat/fish sandwiches or leftovers from home, put them in the fridge (if there is one in your office) or use insulated lunch bags with a freezer pack to keep them cold.
- If you bring food in a reusable tote or insulated bag, wash it frequently.
- If you don’t finish all your lunch, refrigerate leftovers as soon as you finish eating.
- If there’s an office lunch room, make it a policy to regularly clean out the fridge, wipe up any spills and throw out food that’s been there too long. If it’s a shared fridge, label food with your name and the date so you’ll know when it’s past its expiration date.
- Invest in a thermometer and keep the fridge at or below 4oC/40oF. Because the door tends to get open more often than your home fridge, it’s important to keep the temperature at a safe place.
- If there is a party or lunch in the office with pizza, sandwiches or dips, refrigerate leftovers quickly. At room temperature, food should not be out more than two hours and if it’s hot in the office, one hour. Again, label and date any leftovers.
- Don’t take chances. Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be tossed out. But, you can’t always see, smell or taste bacteria that can cause food-borne illness, so, if in doubt, throw it out.