What You should know about Food Safety

Have you ever gone to the refrigerator and pulled out all the ingredients for that new recipe you want to try and found an ingredient you need has gone bad? If so, you know how that can dampen your mood. We have sourced from the government experts the food safety recommendations for common household staples so your recipe won’t be put on hold next time.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued these food guidelines and we are happy to share them with you.

HANDLING FOOD SAFELY – What You Should Know

The supply of food in the U.S. is reported to be among the safest in the world. However, there are certain disease-causing pathogens or bacteria that contaminate food that can cause foodborne illnesses. Often called “food poisoning” this illness sickens 1 in 6 Americans each year of those an estimated 128 thousand hospitalizations and 3 thousand deaths.

When foodborne bacteria is ingested in contaminated food it can cause illness within 1-3 days. The sickness can and often does, occur within 20 minutes. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache and body ach-es. Much like flu symptoms. For more information on Food Poisoning go to cdcinfo@cdc.gov or call 1-800-232-4636 – 24 hours a day.

How long can it last? Most healthy people recover within a day or two but not always. It can be very extreme, become chronic even turn life-threatening in some cases as we noted earlier. People with weakened immune systems will be most vulnerable.

How do we avoid this? Handle foods safely is your best defense.

CLEANLINESS – Wash your hands and surfaces repeatedly. Here are some guidelines issued by the FDA:

Wash hands and wrists with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the bathroom, handling money, handling pets, changing diapers even going out in public you can be opening doors handled by hundreds of people before you.

Keep cutting boards, dishes, counter tops and utensils clean by washing each one with hot soapy water right after preparing EACH food item. Don’t use that knife you just cut up the chicken with on the tomato!

What towels do you use to clean your kitchen surfaces? Using real cloth, just make sure you send them to the laundry often. Doing so will eliminate cross contaminate after cleaning up meat juices on multipurpose surfaces.

Always rinse your fresh fruit and vegetables with cold tap water. Even those with skins you are not eating. Get a produce brush to scrub those potatoes and squash.

Canned goods have been stored in warehouses uncovered very often. Remember to clean the lids BEFORE opening.

KEEP YOUR FOODS SEPARATE

When purchasing foods at the grocery store have the meats, fish and eggs packed away from other groceries.

Designate separate cutting boards for fresh produce and meat.

Don’t ever place cooked meat on a plate that was used for raw meat unless washed completely.

Don’t save used marinades and use them over again on other foods.

COOK AT THE RIGHT TEMPERATURES

Foods must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature to be sure any harmful bacteria that may be present is destroyed. Using your food thermometer is the best way to ensure the right temperature is achieved. This applies to meat, poultry and seafood products.

Egg products are also on that list. Eggs should be cooked until the whites are firm. The FDA encourages you to cook the yolk until it is firm as well.

Reheating any sauces, gravies or soups requires bringing liquid to a boil.

Microwaving raw food should be covered and regularly stirred when cooking. If the microwave doesn’t have a rotating feature, you must rotate the plate or bowl intermittently.

REFRIGERATE PURCHASED AND COOKED FOODS PROPERLY

Refrigeration of foods at the consistent minimum temperature of 40°F is the standard to keep foods safe and fresh.

It is recommended that frozen foods be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Foods that are thawed outside the refrigerator are recommended to be cooked immediately.

Marinating foods should be done in the refrigerator.

After purchasing or cooking, it is recommended that foods be refrigerated within 2 hours unless the outside temperature is 90°F or above. At that higher temperature it is recommended to refrigerate within 1 hour.

FROZEN FOODS

With busy schedules during the week it is common to double up on my favorite recipes and make enough to freeze for later. To ensure freshness and quality of the foods being frozen it is important to store the foods at 0°F or lower in order to keep the color, flavor, vitamin content and textures.

To safely freeze your favorite recipe leftovers, it is recommended to cool the food first. If you put hot or warm foods into the freezer, you will bring the temperature up in the freezer putting other groceries frozen at risk.

Frozen items have a shelf life. One tip I use is to mark the outside of the container on a piece of tape what it is and what date I put it into the freezer. It helps me identify quickly what I am looking for and know how long the foods have been in the freezer.

FOODS THAT ARE NOT FREEZER FRIENDLY

Don’t find out the hard way and ruin dinner. There are several foods that just don’t freeze well. Gravies will separate if already thickened with cornstarch or flour. High water content fruits and veggies like watermelon and lettuce do not fare well in the freezer. Potatoes that have been cooked even in soups and stews – turn gritty from being frozen. If you want to have pasta stay well in the freezer, you must undercook it just less than al dente. Many dairy products do not come out of the freezer happily. Yogurt, sour cream, light cream, and milk tend to separate after being frozen.