TAKE OUT – Food Safety Tips

With the NFL season just around the corner, and the tail gate season upon us – here are some basic food safety tips – – that can make your life a bit more comfortable. And yea, your friends will stay your friends as well.

Now that you have picked up your food from a restaurant, here are some simple tips so that you and your friends/family enjoy safe food at your gathering.

Tip 1: MORE THAN TWO? IT’S BAD FOR YOU!

Two hours is the maximum time foods should be kept at room temperature. Just one bacterium, doubling every 20 minutes, could grow to over 2 million bacteria in seven hours! Don’t hesitate – refrigerate at 40°F or colder if you won’t be eating your take-out meal within the next two hours. Meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, pasta, rice, beans and cooked vegetables should be consumed in 2 hours or place them in refrigerator. Refrigerate salads with meat/fish/chicken/seafood, fresh-cut fruits until used.

Tip 2: HERE IS THE RULE – KEEP IT COOL.

Refrigerate hot take-out foods right away if you won’t be eating them within two hours. For large quantities, divide food into loosely covered shallow containers before refrigerating and then cover tightly when cool. If you leave your pizza and other perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours, toss them out.

Tip 3: AVOID DELAY – EAT WITHIN A DAY.

Plan to eat take-out foods and leftovers within a day for greater safety and quality.

Tip 4: DON’T MISS A BEAT – THOROUGHLY REHEAT!

Don’t reheat take-out food in its original container in the microwave, unless the container is described as safe for microwave use. Reheat all foods to 165°F. Use a food thermometer.

Tip 5: WHEN IN DOUBT – THROW IT OUT!

You can’t see, smell, or taste bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. It takes from half an hour to two or more weeks before you get sick from contaminated food. Sometimes it’s hard to know if food has been handled safely. If you are not sure, throw it away.

Notes: When take-out or prepared food is purchased cold for an outdoor event—like a picnic, sporting event or outdoor buffet—a cooler well packed with ice or frozen gel packs is a practical alternative to a refrigerator. Keep the cooler in the shade. After food comes out of the cooler, remember the two-hour rule. Keep it at 40°F or below. Use a chafing dish, warming tray, steam table, slow cooking pot or a place on the side of the cooking grill. Keep it at 140°F or higher. 

Lets Talk Turkey

As you all prepare for a great time with family, watching NFL games, make sure you give food safety a minute!

Buying Turkeys (I hope that this is done!)

FRESH:

  • Buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it.
  • Keep it stored at 41°F or below until you’re ready to cook it. Place it on a tray to catch juices.
  • Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys.

FROZEN:

  • Keep frozen until you’re ready to thaw it. Start today – if you haven’t…
  • Turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within 1 year for best quality.

Thawing Your Turkey
There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.

  • In refrigerator. 24 hours per 5 lbs. Can be refrozen if needed.
  • In cold running water. 30 minutes per lb. Wrap it securely. Submerge the package. Change water frequently. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze.
  • In microwave oven. Check the size and oven instructions. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate.
  • Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.

 Roasting Your Turkey (325 °F oven temperature)

  • Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  • Stuffing a turkey is not recommended. Recommended: cook stuffing outside in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing – safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate.
  • A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.

 Timetable for Roasting your Turkey

(325 °F oven temperature)

Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.

 Unstuffed:

  • 4 to 8 lbs (90 minutes to 190 minutes)
  • 8 to 12 lbs (160 to 180 minutes)
  • 12 to 14 lbs (180 to 220 minutes)
  • 14 to 18 lbs (220 to 250 minutes).

Stuffed:

  • 6 to 8 lbs (150 to 210 minutes)
  • 8 to 12 lbs (180 to 210 minutes)
  • 12 to 14 lbs (150 to 240 minutes)
  • 14 to 18 lbs (240 to 270 minutes).
  • It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey.
  • Tuck wing tips under the shoulders of the bird for more even cooking.
  • If your roasting pan does not have a lid, you may place a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 ½ hours. This allows for maximum heat circulation, keeps the turkey moist, and reduces oven splatter.
  • For turkey breasts, place thermometer in the thickest part. For whole turkeys, place in the thickest part of the inner thigh. Once the thigh has reached 165 °F, check the wing and the thickest part of the breast to ensure the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product.

 REMEMBER! Always wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.

Storing Your Leftover Turkey

  • Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hrs; 1 hr in temperatures above 90 °F.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days.
  • If freezing leftovers, use within 2 to 6 months for best quality.

 Reheating Your Turkey

  • Cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.
  • Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
  • Cover your food and rotate it for even heating if using a microwave. Allow standing time.

Dont be a turkey and make your family suffer….

GO TEXANS!

Planning a Picnic? Wanna serve Safe Food?

TIME OUT FOR PICNIC FOOD SERVING

Are you planning a 4th July picnic? a company picnic? or a weekend get-together? A few well-planned steps may mean the difference between a food safety nightmare and sure success.

Although you may see ants, insects and other crawling creatures outdoors, it is not possible to see, taste or smell harmful microorganisms that may cause illness if food served is mishandled. Make sure that you pack food safety in your carryout box or picnic basket before leaving.

Warm temperatures are ideal for bacteria and other harmful pathogens to multiply and cause foodborne illness. Pathogens grow best between 41°F and 135°F. Potentially hazardous foods transported without proper temperature control will not stay safe for long. Please make a note of the following to avoid your family, customers, friends, relatives and guests making a comment to you that they have the “Summer Bug”!

 

 

  • PLAN AHEAD. Plan the right amount of food. That way, you will not have to worry about the storage of leftovers.
  • Foods cooked ahead need to be cooked in adequate time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Store and transport the food with sufficient ice or refrigeration to MAINTAIN FOODS at 41°F or lower.
  • Carryout foods such as fried chicken and barbecue, should be consumed by the guest within two hours or pack ahead of time to store them REFRIGERATED.
  • Divide large quantities of bulk foods into SHALLOW CONTAINERS for quick cooling and quick reheating outdoors.
  • Keep all meat and poultry, seafood, dairy items refrigerated to minimize bacterial growth. Use insulated coolers, ice packs, refrigerated containers on trucks to ensure safe temperature. When handling raw meats, remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit the cooking needs.
  • Pack salads, deli meats and other cold items by nesting dishes in containers of ice.
  • When outdoors, keep the coolers and other food storage equipment in the shade. Keep the lid closed and AVOID FREQUENT OPENING. Do not forget to replenish ice in the cooler as it melts.
  • If entertaining, set out only SMALL AMOUNTS of food at time and replace with fresh food rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already has food in it.
  • Use SEPARATE COOLERS for drinks so the food containers won’t be constantly opened and closed.
  • KEEP HOT FOOD HOT until served. Use a chafing dish, warming tray, steam table, slow cooking pot or on the side of the cooking grill.
  • To destroy all harmful microorganisms, COOK ALL MEATS properly. Keep a product thermometer available to check the internal temperature. Cook poultry to at least 165F and burgers to 150F.
  • ENJOY YOUR OUTING!

Power outage? Worried about your food?

No lights? No A/C? No power to your refrigerator?

The techniques for handling food during power outages, when applied, will reduce the possibility of bacterial growth in food and help food remain safe for human consumption.

Raw Foods:

As a general rule, discard fresh meats, fish, poultry, or dairy products if the color or odor is poor or questionable. The rule is “When in doubt, throw it out.” Saving or eating a possibly contaminated food product is never worth the risk of food borne illness.

Perishable (or potentially hazardous) Foods:

Perishable food, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and leftovers that have been held at temperatures greater than 41ºF for more than four hours should be discarded.

Thawed food in the freezer, including raw meats and vegetables and fruits without sauces, that contain ice crystals or have been held at 41ºF or below can be refrozen and cooked. However, do not refreeze thawed cooked foods or packaged dinners that have thawed out. Pre-cooked thawed items are highly susceptible to bacterial growth.

Maintaining Foods Safe in the Freezer:

After a power outage, keep the freezer door shut for as long as possible. A full freezer will keep food at freezing temperatures for about two days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for about one day. If the power is off for several days consider using dry ice. Check the yellow pages of your telephone directory for “ice”. Many grocery stores have dry ice. Call ahead to make sure that the grocer has an adequate supply. Allow 2 ½-3 pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of freezer space in a chest freezer. In an upright freezer more dry ice is required so that ice can be placed on each shelf. Because dry ice can burn exposed skin, do not touch it with bare hands. Follow instructions on dry ice usage carefully. Make sure it is wrapped in several layers of newspaper before placing it in the freezer.

Temperatures

Cook or heat food to a minimum of 145º. If food is to be reheated, it must be rapidly reheated to a minimum of 165º. Use a probe-type metal thermometer to test the final cooking temperature.

Store perishable or potentially hazardous food cold food at a minimum of 41º F or below.

Water and Cleanliness

Safe potable water must be available and used for cooking, dishwashing, drinking and maintaining personal hygiene. If the Municipal water supply is not safe, use bottled, boiled or treated water. Make sure dishes and utensils are clean by washing, rinsing and sanitizing them in safe potable water. Sanitization is very important at this time. Effective sanitization can be obtained by adding one ounce of regular household chlorine bleach (unscented type) to each gallon of safe potable cool water. Wash with soap and water first, rinse with clean water second, and sanitize with bleach water, using the proper proportion of bleach to water. Allow bleach-water solution to air-dry on the utensils. Store the clean utensils in a clean place to protect them from recontamination.

The use of single service items is encouraged to reduce the possibility of food borne illness. Paper plates and cups, plastic knives and forks that are used only once and discarded are highly recommended.

Insects and Rodent Activity

Since air conditioning usually does not work during power outages, door and windows are usually kept open. Insects and rodents may gain entrance into the building. Make sure that doors and windows are adequately screened, using screening material of not less than 16 mesh to the inch.

By discarding spoiled food, controlling food temperatures, keeping utensils clean and sanitary and by keeping pests out, the fear of food borne illness can be eliminated from your post-disaster recovery concerns.

If you have specific concerns, please let me know or call your local Health Department.

Hope you get your power and utilities back up and running soon! Stay safe!

 

Sprouts on your sandwich?

We all know that the sprouts have high vitamin content, are rich in enzymes and phyto nutrients and strengthen our immune system. In general, they are good for us. Is it worth being ill? Is it worth loosing work/productive time?

Around the holiday season last year, people started getting sick from eating raw sprouts on sandwiches from a well-known sandwich chain, primarily in Indiana. After about 140 confirmed cases, the sprouts were linked to an organic farm based in Illinois. The Food and Drug Administration released a 6-page inspection report in Feb. 2011, and found the company in numerous violations.

Some comments from the report findings:

  • Company grew sprouts in “soil from the organic material decomposed outside” without using any monitored “kill step” on it.
  • An “amphibian/reptile” was kept in the reception room of the firm, which adjoined the production area.
  • The firm couldn’t show that its antimicrobial treatment for seeds was the recommended treatment with a bleach solution.
  • Employees stored their lunches, including such items as raw bacon, in the same cooler where finished sprouts were stored.
  • Organic matter was seen on a table where sprouts were packaged, and a biofilm-like buildup was seen on sprouting trays after they were cleaned.
  • Mold like material was seen on walls and ceiling in a mung-bean sprouting room.
  • Condensation dripped from the ceiling in production areas throughout the inspection period, which lasted close to a month.
  • An outside lab that the firm used to test its water and sprouts used a method that was not validated for detecting Salmonella in those items.
  • Investigators found a Salmonella isolate matching the outbreak strain in a sample of runoff water from the company.

The owner of the organic farm has said that the nutritional benefits outweigh the risk. He also commented “Sprouts are kind of a magical thing.” He advised people to buy sprouts from someone who have a program in place that includes outside auditors.

Independent auditors? Like the ones who said everything was OK, at the cantaloupe farm or peanut processor? We must have some accountability from these third-party auditors.

The involved chain has removed sprouts from its menu following this week’s finding by the CDC. Many have taken alfalfa sprouts off its menus. They should value the well-being of customers and remove all sprouts from menu and sandwich lines. Retail stores should stop selling these items until they are grown, harvested and processed in a safe and wholesome manner.

We are hoping that the new rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act will require certain guidelines to be acceptable.

Meanwhile, feel free to search and start growing your own sprouts if you want some on your sandwich today. Safe sprouting y’all!

 

Fresh Produce – Bad for you?

As you take on the challenge to loose weight by eating healthier this New Year – do you know the following facts?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) annual year in review, there were 16 multistate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. in 2011, with five of them involving fresh produce.

Fresh produce involved: romaine lettuce, cantaloupes (two outbreaks), whole papayas and alfalfa and spicy sprouts. Two outbreaks were related to nuts, one involving Turkish pine nuts and the other involving hazelnuts. Lists for recent years are on the CDC’s website. According to the CDC, 2011 was the most active year in recent history for foodborne illness outbreaks that crossed state lines.

Some of the headlines from last year:

  • Whole fresh papayas imported from Mexico were linked to 106 people infected with Salmonella Agona. The illnesses were in 25 states and were reported between January and August.
  • Whole fresh cantaloupes from a single farm in Guatemala and sold in the U.S. were linked to 20 people in 10 states with confirmed cases of Salmonella Panama. This happened between February and April.
  • Alfalfa and spicy sprouts produced by a company in Idaho, were linked to 25 confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis in five states as of July. The illnesses were reported from April to July.
  • Whole fresh cantaloupes from Colorado, were linked to 146 people in 28 states that were infected with strains of listeria. As of December 30 people died. In addition, one woman who was pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.
  • Fresh-cut romaine lettuce — distributed by a distributor in Oklahoma, to Supermarkets in the St. Louis area, and other locations was involved in E. coli O157:H7 infections. As of Nov. 30, 60 people infected had been confirmed in 10 states.
  • Do we need a better safety system?
  • Do we need more regulations?
  • Do we stop eating fresh produce items? Or
  • Do we take a chance?

Challenges for the growers, farmers and everyone:

Compliance is the key to the success of any food safety system and any new system should be flexible enough so that the growers can comply.  Produce growers vary in size ranging from larger operations that grow, pack, and ship their produce both in-state and across state lines, to very small farmers who sell all their produce directly to the local public.  Some irrigate from surface water, others use ground water, some are near livestock operation.

We must consider:

1. Flexibility. Flexibility per Best Management Practices is key to the success of any new food safety system. Different regions of the country use production land very differently.  Different regions of the country use production land differently, such as continual use of specific land for produce production versus shifting use of land between pasture, other crops and production of vegetables.

2. Sound Science. Any new practices should be based upon proven and effective food safety practices and sound science.  Most of produce is not produced in an indoor or enclosed environment and should not be regulated in a manner that is unrealistic to achieve.  May be the federal government take the time to fund and complete the science and research needed to determine the most appropriate and safe practices?

3. Existing resources. Program should be coordinated with State departments of agriculture or other agencies responsible for food safety, inspection and enforcement.  Such coordination will be crucial to the success and will prevent redundancy in programming.  The funding, education and training for inspectors should be bolstered.

4. Economy. The development of any new system should consider the economic impact on various size operations across the county. Any new system should be economically viable within existing industry structures that vary across the country.

As we move forward in enhancing the safest food system in the world, we must be cost-effective, practical, use proven science and allow flexibility by working with the stakeholders in developing the best practices. We do have a diverse food production system in this country.

Now, let me go consume that fresh salad I just prepared. I am hungry!

Thermometers – Your Friend

Why Use a Food Thermometer?

It is essential to use a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry, seafood, egg products and vegetables to prevent undercooking, verify that food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature, and consequently, prevent foodborne illness for you and your loved ones. Yes, it includes your customers!

Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine desired “doneness” of meat, poultry, and egg products. To be safe, these foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful microorganisms that may be in the food.

Color is Not a Reliable Indicator

Many food handlers believe that visible indicators, such as color changes, can be used to determine if foods are cooked to a point where pathogens are killed. However, recent research has shown that color and texture indicators are unreliable.

Safety Versus Doneness

Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures. A food thermometer should also be used to ensure that cooked food is held at safe temperatures until served. Cold foods should be held at 40°F or below. Hot food should be kept hot at 140°F or above.

Types of Thermometers

Food thermometers come in several types and styles, and vary in level of technology and price.

1. Digital Food Thermometers

Thermocouple: Of all food thermometers, thermocouple thermometers reach and display the final temperature the fastest – within 2 to 5 seconds. The temperature is indicated on a digital display.  Thermocouples are not designed to remain in the food while it’s cooking. They should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures.

Thermistors: Thermistors are not designed to remain in the food while it’s cooking. They should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures. To prevent overcooking, check the temperature before the food is expected to finish cooking.

Oven Cord Thermometers: This food thermometer allows the cook to check the temperature of food in the oven without opening the oven door.

Thermometer Fork Combination: The thermometer fork should be used to check the temperature of a food towards the end of the estimated cooking time. Thermometer forks are not designed to remain in a food while in the oven or on the grill.

2. Dial Food Thermometers
3. Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
4.“Oven-safe” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
5. “Instant Read” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
6. Pop-Up Timers

Other Types of Food Thermometers

7. Liquid-filled Thermometers
8. Candy/Jelly/Deep Fry Thermometers
9. Appliance Thermometers
10. Refrigerator/ Freezer Thermometers
11. Oven Thermometers

Safety and Doneness

Most pathogens are destroyed between 140°F and 165°F. Higher temperatures may be necessary to achieve consumer acceptability and palatability, also known as “doneness.”

These temperatures are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional, or foodservice preparation. Food service professionals should consult their state or local food code.

Recommended Internal Temperatures  (°F) for Consumers

Note: If you are operating a food service operation, please check your local laws and regulations!

Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures

Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb (160)

Turkey, Chicken (165)

Fresh Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb

Beef, Pork, Veal, & Lamb (steaks, roasts and chops) (145)

Ham

Fresh (raw) or “cook-before-eating” (145)

Pre-cooked (to reheat) (140)

Poultry

Chicken, Turkey, Duck & Goose (whole or pieces) (165)

Poultry breasts, roasts (165)

Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) (165)

Eggs and Egg Dishes

Eggs (Cook until yolk and white are firm)

Egg dishes (160)

Leftovers and Casseroles (165)

Thermometer Care: As with any cooking utensil, food thermometers should be washed with hot soapy water. Most thermometers should not be immersed in water. Wash carefully by hand.

“Is it done yet?” You can’t tell by looking. Use a food thermometer to be sure.