Spring Into Food Safety
As I write this post I have my feet kicked up, a light 75 degree breeze is blowing my hair and, believe it or not, there is a palm tree within arms length. No, it’s not quite summer yet but this Florida vacation is a welcome change from the 40 degree chills of a Chicago April. One thing this weather reminds me of is that summer is right around the corner. And with the summer comes fun outdoor gatherings and cookouts. In fact, last night I grilled out with my extended family on the patio; chargrilled hamburgers…cooked to medium well.
As delicious as the burgers were, the temperature struck up a conversation around the dinner table. How worried should we be about the threat of foodborne illnesses like mad cow disease? Lately, food borne illness occurrences and warnings have been sweeping the news, especially after the recent CBS report of a positive mad cow disease test on a dairy cow in California. All this talk reminds us of one thing; it’s that time of year again for a heightened consciousness of food safety.
Don’t feel armed with all the right food safety knowledge to protect yourself, your friends and family? Nutrition Lately has compiled a few of the most important food safety myths, common mishaps and tips from storage to preparation to keep you safe this spring and summer.
“THIS GROUND BEEF IS FROZEN SO IT’S OKAY TO THAW IT ON THE COUNTER?”
No way. Room temperature allows bacteria to grow at an alarming rate, even when being thawed from frozen. There are several acceptable ways to safely thaw all foods:
- Cook without thawing if you do not have enough time and the cooking time will just need too be extended approximately 50% longer.
- You can thaw using the microwave by following the owner’s manual instructions.
- If you chose to thaw in water, put the frozen package in a watertight bag and submerge in the cold water, changing water every half hour.
- Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method and should typically be ready to use the next day.
“THE HAMBURGERS HAVE BEEN COOKED TO DONE SO NOW WE DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BACTERIA?”
Unfortunately, the alternative is true. After cooking bacterial growth can actually increase because there is a drop in temperature that allows bacteria to flourish. Follow these tips to keep food out of the ‘danger zone’ (danger zone – between 41-140 degrees F).
- Check the temperature – Place a food thermometer in the thickest part of the food and compare to a minimum temperatures chart.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold - Keep hot foods above the safe temperature of 140 degrees or above using a heat source like a warming tray or slow cooker. Be sure to keep cold foods below 41 degrees as well by refrigerating or using ice.
“THIS HAMBURGER DOESN’T STINK SO IT’S SAFE TO EAT…RIGHT?”
Wrong. There are several types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning and most do not affect the taste, smell or look of our foods.
Following some simple limits for home-refrigerated foods will help keep them safe to eat. Here are a few guidelines for cookout favorites to keep in mind:
- 1-2 days - Hamburger or other ground meats and fresh poultry.
- 3-4 days – Leftovers of cooked meat or poultry.
- 3-5 days - Egg, chicken, tuna and macaroni salads, opened package of deli sliced luncheon meats, and fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork.
- 1 week - Opened package of hot dogs and bacon.
- 2 weeks - Unopened packages of luncheon meat and hot dogs.
Storage time increase when stored in the freezer. You can visit the foodsafety.gov storage time chart for more details.
For more safety guidelines for proper food storage, handling, and preparation, please visit cdc.gov/foodsafety.