Be Food Safe!
National Food Safety Education: Presenting Mythbusters!
We all do it: snack on leftovers in our fridge from maybe a few weeks ago, grab some grapes without washing them, and risk mouth roof burn on food the minute the microwave beeps. We do it, but is it safe food handling?
Here are some of the myths about food handling that may surprise you.
#1 Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.
Fact: You wouldn't eat spoiled, smelly food, but if you did, you might not get sick. That's because there are different types of bacteria, some of which cause illness and others that don't. Unfortunately, the types of bacteria that cause illness don't affect the taste, smell or appearance of food. That's why you should freeze or toss leftovrs within three to four days. If you can't remember when the leftovers arrived in your fridge, toss them out!
#2 Myth: Bleach and water can sanitize counter-tops, and the more bleach, the more bacteria you kill.
Fact: There's no advantage to using more bleach, and overuse can be harmful, because it isn't safe to consume. To create a sanitizing solution, use one tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach per gallon of water. Flood the countertops with the solution, allow it to sit for a few minutes, then pat dry with clean paper towels, or allow to air dry. You can save any leftover sanitizing solution, tightly covered, for up to one week. After that, it's lost its effectiveness.
#3 Myth: Don't wash produce if you're going to peel it.
Wash those apples, avocados, bananas and potatoes under running tap water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Harmful bacteria, which could be on the outside of the produce, can be transferred to the part you eat if you're cutting or peeling it without washing. Delicate produce, such as grapes or lettuce, can be washed under cool running water and blotted dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. For firm-skin veggies, run under tap water or scrub with a clean produce brush. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
#4 Myth: The stand time recommended for microwave foods is optional and only suggested so you don't burn yourself.
Here's another surprise: the stand time is not about cooling the microwaved food, but it's an important part of the cooking process. Stand times, usually just a few minutes, are needed to bring the food to a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. To ensure safe microwave cooking, always read and follow package instructions, know the wattage of your oven and use your handy food thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
Mythbusters: Food Safety Fact and Fiction
Question: how do you sanitize a cutting board? If you use the old wives' method of lemon juice and salt, please reconsider. Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level so the risk of foodborne illness is reduced. Lemon juice and salt won't do that!
The most effective way to sanitize a cutting board, or other kitchen surfaces, is with a diluted bleach and water solution. Mix one tablespoon (no more!) of unscented liquid chlorine bleach and one gallon of water. Clean the cutting board by first washing it with hot water and soap. Sanitize by letting the diluted bleach mix stand on the cutting board surface for a couple of minutes. Then, rinse and blot it dry with clean paper towels. it is important to both clean and disinfect. You can't tell if a surface is free of disease-causing bacteria just by looking.
Question: Will rinsing raw chicken with water remove harmful bacteria like Salmonella? Definitely not...in fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink and countertops, and even on ready-to-eat foods. The bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when it's cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. That means cooking poultry to 165 degrees F. , as measured by a food thermometer. Save yourself the mess of rinsing raw poultry. It's not a safety step, and it can lead to dangerous cross-contamination.
Question: If a hamburger is brown in the middle, is it cooked? By now, you probably know that you can't use visual cues to determine whether food has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. The only way to know that food has been cooked safely is to use a food thermometer. Ground meat should be cooked to 160 degrees F. at a minimum...and be sure you're measuring that with a trusty food thermometer.
Question: Can you put hot food in the refrigerator? Well, actually yes! Hot foods can be placed directly into the frig. A large pot of food, like soup, should be divided into smaller portions and put into shallow containers for quicker cooling. If you leave food out to cool after cooking and forget to refrigerate it, you need to throw it away! After two hours, food is not safe to eat if it's been resting at room temperature. Of course, in hotter weather, that window is even less than two hours. If food is left outdoors where the temperature is 90 degrees or more, refrigerate it or eat it within just one hour. If you don't, throw it away.
Bacteria grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, so always follow that two-hour rule: eat perishable foods or refrigerate them within two hours at a frig temperature of 40 degrees F or lower. You've taken the time to prepare good, healthy food: now make sure it's safe to eat!
Help and Guides:
Safe Cooking Temperatures: An Easy Guide
Don't take a chance with food safety. When you're cooking in the oven or on the grill, measure the safe cooking temperature of your food with a food thermometer. Checking the internal temperature of the food is the only way to determine if it is safe to eat. Takes just a moment and provides that peace of mind to you, your family and your guests. Here are the safe cooking temperatures to follow.
Ground Meat and Meat Mixtures
- Beef, pork, veal, lamb: 160 degrees F.
- Turkey, chicken: 165 degrees F.
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb
- Medium rare: 145 degrees F.
- Medium: 160 degrees F.
- Well done: 170 degrees F.
- Chicken and turkey, whole: 165 degrees F.
- Poultry parts: 165 degrees F.
- Duck and goose: 165 degrees F.
- Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird): 165 degrees F.
- Medium: 160 degrees F.
- Well done: 170 degrees F.
- Fresh (raw): 160 degrees F.
- Pre-cooked (to re-heat): 140 degrees F.
Eggs and Egg Dishes
- Eggs: cook till yolk and white are firm
- Egg dishes: 160 degrees F.
- Fin fish: 145 degrees F. (flesh is opaque)
- Shrimp, lobster & crab: flesh is pearly and opaque
- Clams, oysters and mussels: shells open during cooking
- Scallops: milky white or opaque and firm
Leftovers and Casseroles
- 165 degrees F.
Remember that color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Be especially careful to cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm, and only use recipes in which eggs are cooked or heated thoroughly. During warmer summer months, it's especially important to also follow the golden rule of defrosting: never defrost food at room temperature. You can safely defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave...never sitting on the kitchen counter. If food is thawed in cold water or the micro, cook it immediately.
Egg Safety Guide
It's the time for eggs: hard-boiled, dyed and decorated, enjoyed as a rite of spring. Be Food Safe by treating your eggs right.
- Keep hard-cooked Easter eggs refrigerated until just before the egg hunt. Don't leave hard-cooked eggs out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Only use eggs that have been refrigerated and discard any eggs that are cracked or dirty.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling eggs.
- Consider buying one set of eggs for decorating and hunting only, another set just for good eating.
- For egg info, check out aeb.org (the American Egg Board): recipes and egg safety.
If you are pregnant, your doctor has probably told you that you are at high risk for getting sick from Listeria, a harmful bacteria found in many foods. Listeria can lead to a disease called listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, serious sickness or even death of a newborn. If you are pregnant, you need to know what foods are safe to eat.
First, how will you know if you have listeriosis? The illness may take weeks to show up, so you may not know you have it. Early signs include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea and upset stomach. It may initially feel like the flu, and later on, you could have a stiff neck, headache, convulsions or lose your balance. Every year, 2,500 Americans become sick from listeriosis, and one of five die from the illness.
If you think you have it, call your doctor, nurse or health clinic right away, so you can be treated.
To keep yourself and your baby safe from listeriosis, do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, bologna or other deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot. Avoid refrigerated pate, meat spreads or smoked seafood, but food that doesn't need refrigeration, such as canned tuna and canned salmon, are okay to eat. Be sure to refrigerate them after opening.
Don't drink raw (unpasteurized) milk and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them. Avoid soft cheeses, such as feta, queso blanco or queso fresco, brie, camembert and other blue-veined cheeses unless they are labeled as made with pasteurized milk.
Follow the four tenets of food safety and Fight BAC: clean, separate,cook and chill. To keep your food safe, remember that listeria can grow in the frig. Make sure the temperature there is 40 degrees F or lower, and the freezer is set for 0 degrees or lower. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the inside temperature.
Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away, especially juices from hot dog packages or raw meat or chicken and turkey.
Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with hot water and liquid soap, then rinse.
Use precooked or ready-to-eat food as soon as you can. Don't let it sit in your refrigerator too long!
As always, wash your hands after touching hot dogs, raw meat, chicken, turkey or seafood, as well as their juices.
Here's another link to answer food safety questions, from the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov)
Your Baby's Bottle: Food Safety Comes First
Because infants are especially vulnerable to foodborne illness (due to their insufficiently developed immune systems, bacterial infections are harder to fight off), take extra care when you are preparing formula and handling baby bottles.
Wash your hands before and after handling formula and baby bottles. If you are tempted to prepare a large amount of formula at one time, resist! If a large quantity is prepared and not properly refrigerated, bacteria can multiply, increasing the chance that your baby could get sick.
If baby doesn't finish the entire bottle, don't put it back in the refrigerator. Harmful bacteria from your hands or even a baby's mouth can be introduced to the bottle during feeding. Some bacteria can grow and multiply even after refrigeration and reheating.
For more baby bottle tips and food safety info for young children and babies, visit www.fda.gov
Do you know how to keep food safe at home?
Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat. Here at The Markets, we work very hard to provide you with safe, wholesome and properly labeled and packaged foods for your family.
But that's only the first step of food safety. Improper handling, preparation and storage of food can cause foodborne illness that ranges from temporary discomfort to hospitalization and even death. Especially vulnerable are the very young, older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
We are charter members of The Partnership for Food Safety Education, a national organization that works in tandem with the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This group created Fight BAC,the first national campaign to emphasize the four basic safe food handling behaviors. Be Food Safe is the refreshed campaign, and it has four easy behaviors to use every time you are handling food at home:
Clean means clean hands and clean surfaces. Wash with warm, soapy water before you prep or eat food, and wash your utensils and counter-tops after prepping each food item. Use clean packaging and bags.
Separate means don't cross-contaminate. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for meat and poultry: they shouldn't mix.
Cook means cooking foods to a safe temperature. Use a food thermometer, since you can't tell food is cooked safely by looks alone.
Chill means refrigerating leftovers and takeout foods within two hours. Keep the fridge at 40 degrees F. or below.
It's really simple to follow these four rules and apply them to your daily food handling. Whether you're fixing school lunches for your children or bringing a hot dish to a potluck, remember to Be Food Safe. "Wash hands, utensils, and cutting boards before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs"
"Keep raw meat and poultry apart from foods that won't be cooked. Use different cutting boards for meat, poultry, seafood, and veggies"
"You can't tell it's done by how it looks! Use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry have reached a safe minimum internal temperature."
- Poultry should be cooked to 165 ºF
- Ground beef should be cooked to 160 ºF
- Egg dishes should be cooked to 160 ºF
- Steaks and roasts should be cooked to 145 ºF
- Fish should be cooked to 145 ºF
"Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours and keep the fridge at 40 ºF or below to keep bacteria from growing"
Learn more about food safety at befoodsafe.org
Food Safety Applies to Microwave Cooking, Too
Don't you love dinner in minutes...a frozen entree and a microwave oven make life pretty sweet sometimes. But do keep in mind that food safety applies as well to cooking frozen foods in the trusty microwave. Here are a couple of tips.
Make sure you follow the cooking instructions on the package, and remember that food can cook unevenly in a microwave. The actual cooking time can vary, due to the power of your particular appliance and its efficiency.
Harmful bacteria can survive in those challenging cold spots. Observe the instructions again: if they indicate rotating and stirring the product, do so, and remember that standing time before eating actually completes the cooking process.
Use a food thermometer to verify that food has reached the safe minimum internal temperature. Take a few minutes and save yourself the unpleasant outcome of a possible foodborne illness.
There are Limits to Leftovers
We're all eating lots more leftovers these days, as we stretch our food budgets by preparing more meals at home and saving those leftovers for tomorrow's meals (instead of the dog's delight). Like any other aspect of food handling, leftovers should be treated with the same safe food handling practices.
First, discard refrigerated leftover foods within three to four days --- no more mystery meals at the back of the frig! Time plus temperature causes bacteria to grow. Your frig should be cold enough to keep food safe, and you shouldn't hang on to those leftovers too long.
Refrigerate the cooked leftovers promptly: within two hours, or just one hour if the temperatures are over 90 degrees (a rare occurence here). Test out your frig temperature with an appliance thermometer to make sure it's always 40 degrees or below.
Divide the leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers. If the leftovers contain meat or poultry, reheat them to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature before serving. Let sauces, soups and gravies reheat by bringing them to a boil.
Be especially careful with microwaving leftovers. Cold spots in food can allow bacteria to prosper. Cover the food, stir and rotate for even cooking at least once or twice.
Remember, as you buy in bulk (check out our great values!), you can refrigerate large packages of perishables like raw meat or poultry for one to two days, but then the food should be cooked or put in the freezer. Meat and poultry stay safe indefinitely in the freezer, but if you're looking for the optimum quality, we suggest eating frozen meat and poultry within three to six months.
Brown Bagging It Safely At Work
We've all seen the mysterious brown lunch bags in the office fridge, or the clump of stuff in the plastic container, neither of which is claimed by anyone. Don't let old food sit around, just waiting to make you sick! Food safety dictates that you want to keep your food at work fresh. Here are a few basic tips all of us can remember as we're saving a few dollars by bringing food from home.
Don't let your bagged lunch sit at your workspace when you arrive in the morning. Walk it right over to the lunchroom and place it in the refrigerator. If you don't have one, it's time to invest in a frozen juice box or a frozen gel pack to keep your perishable foods fresh (lunch meats, mayo, dairy).
Before you eat, wash your hands and your desktop with warm soapy water. (While you're at it, how about cleaning off surfaces you use all the time, like a desk phone or keyboard?) Wash up after you eat, too. Food-transmitted bugs don't stand a chance with this easy habit.
Finally, don't succumb to the temptation to put leftovers back in the frig, where they might languish for many a day, until they are almost unrecognizable, and hopefully not tempting to nibble on. Throw away (in your compostable garbage bin, we hope) your uneaten perishable foods and the used packaging and paper bags (recycle, please). Did you know reusing packaging could contaminate other food and lead to foodborne illnesses?
Keep Food Safe and Healthy at Your Party
So it's party time around the office, at home, the kids' school, wherever. You are proud to bring a great selection of treats, but don't bring along food-related illness!
What is the maximum amount of time a tray of fresh-cut veggies, fruits, cold meats plate can sit out at a party before becoming a potential health danger to your guests? It's two hours. If you're planning a holiday get-together, remember these foods are perishable (yes, even the fruits and vegetables) and don't let them sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
How can you keep a tray cold during your party? Nest the tray of food in a big bowl of ice you can replenish as needed. Instead of serving from one large platter, arrange your food on several small platters. Refrigerate the platters until it's serving time, and rotate these every two hours.
Remember, even though the weather is chilly, food safety should continue to be top-of-mind as you're planning a gathering that includes wonderful holiday foods.