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Harmful bacteria may be hiding inside your favorite cookies

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

We're surprised bacteria can live this long inside cookies and crackers

I'm pretty vigilant about food safety in my kitchen, so I was surprised at the results of a new study on how long bacteria can live in dry goods.

Even though I'm meticulous about cross-contamination, put my leftovers in the fridge right away and wash my fruits and veggies thoroughly before cooking them, I'm pretty nonchalant about dry packaged goods. But new findings show that eating dry packaged goods can come with some unwelcome consequences, by way of bacteria.

Researchers at the University of Georgia recently discovered that salmonella and other harmful bacteria can live in dry goods like cookies and cracker sandwiches, which is strange, because it was previously thought that such bacteria preferred a moist environment. Even worse, these contaminants can sometimes survive for up to six months.

More: More bad news for Chipotle: 120 New illnesses strike college students

So where does that leave us? There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from contaminated dry goods.

Buy from sources you trust

If you're concerned about buying contaminated goods to begin with, you should make sure you're purchasing your food from sources you trust. Think grocery store down the street, not the dude hawking Ritz crackers outside the entrance to the subway.

Check before you chow down

Sometimes just taking a sniff of or look at your food can help you determine if it's safe to eat. You do the same thing with a package of chicken or carton of milk; taking the extra few seconds to check out your packaged dry foods is a good idea too.

More: Dove holiday chocolates recalled thanks to Grinchy allergens

Wash your hands before touching your food

It's obvious that you should wash your hands after handling raw meat, but it's a good idea to wash your hands before you touch any foods too. If you have any germs or bacteria on your hands and then go open up a pack of Oreos, that matter can be transferred to your food. And, as we now know, it could live there for up to six months, putting your health at risk every time you reach for a midnight snack.

Throw away compromised food

If you're thrifty, it can be hard to throw away food. But if the packaging of your dry goods has been compromised — whether you realize it has a tear and shared a grocery bag with some chicken or you go to eat it and realize there's a hole in the bag — you should toss it.

Stay up-to-date on recalls and food safety

Sometimes there's no way to tell if your food is safe or not (scary, I know!). To keep yourself and your family safe, make it your business to stay abreast of food recalls and food safety news. What we know about keeping our food safe is changing all the time, but keeping yourself informed can help prevent any illnesses.

More: Thanks to Congress, we'll have no way of knowing where our meat comes from

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