Food Safety


A few common-sense precautions protect your family from food-borne illnesses.

By FamilyTime

 

The warmer weather does not need to spell trouble for home cooks worried about food spoilage and food-borne illness. The same basic rules for keeping food safe apply regardless of the temperature outside, but because your kitchen may be warmer as the spring progresses into the summer than it is in the wintertime, your food may spoil more quickly.

Danger Zones
Bacteria grows most readily in temperature between 41°F and 140°F. This is the danger zone for all perishable food and in particular meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and fish. Even cooked foods should not be held at these temperatures for longer than an hour.

Store food in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. Return uncooked food to the refrigerator as soon as you can. Cover and stow cooked food in the refrigerator directly after the meal--do not let it sit on the table for any length of time.

Ground meat and poultry should be refrigerated until immediately before cooking. Form the patties and then return them to the 'fridge.

Keep the refrigerator between 31°F and 40°F. and the freezer at 0°F. Accurate refrigerator and freezer thermometers are easily found in hardware stores, kitchen supply stores and supermarkets.

Soap and Water
Wash all work surfaces with soap and hot water. This includes your hands! Wash your hands again after working with raw poultry, meat, or fish before moving on to other preparations.

Both plastic and wooden cutting boards should be washed with hot, soapy water after every use and with a bleach-water solution after coming into contact with raw poultry, meat or fish. Mix about a tablespoon of common household bleach with a gallon of water for an adequate ratio.

Thorough Cooking
Cook food to safe temperatures to kill bacteria such as salmonella and e-coli. Use an instant-read thermometer to determine the internal temperature, which for most meat and fish is about 160°F., although poultry should be cooked to 170°F. for white meat and 180°F. for dark meat.

Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or fish, taking care not to let it touch the bone. Because of its nature, some food is uneven and so take care that it cooks evenly.

Some harmful spores are heat resistant and not killed during cooking, which is why it is so important to refrigerate food until shortly before cooking.

If an egg's shell is cracked, use the egg in a baking recipe where the oven heat will insure it cooks thoroughly. The shell is the section of the egg most likely to be contaminated. Otherwise, cook uncracked eggs until thick. They should not be runny.

Cross-Contamination
Store raw foods on the bottom shelves of the refrigerator and cooked foods above them. This prevents raw meat and poultry juices from leaking onto cooked foods and contaminating it.

When working with raw food, take care any escaping juices do not spill onto the salad greens or other foods that will be served raw or only slightly cooked (green beans or pasta, for instance).