December 27, 1996
Food Safety In the Kitchen!By Laurie B. Kobliska
STOCKTON DESK - Hidden bacteria in your meal may cause food borne illness in your family. Bacteria will multiply to dangerous levels between 60 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Stay out of this danger zone with proper cold storage, handling, and cooking.
- Avoid bringing home dangerous levels of bacteria from your grocery store by following this simple rule: Buy cold foods last, and get them home fast.
- Consider using a portable cooler to keep food cold in the car.
- At the store, make sure refrigerated foods are cold to the touch, and frozen foods are rock solid. Always check the expiration dates, and never buy dented, cracked or bulging cans.
- Store your foods safely by keeping your refrigerator as cold as possible. The temperature should be just short of freezing your food. Your freezer should be at zero degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep fresh meat, poultry, and fish on a plate, or wrapped in a second plastic bag to keep their raw juices from contaminating other food. If you aren't going to eat them for a few days, put them in the freezer to stop the growth of bacteria.
- Always thaw food in the microwave or refrigerator. If you thaw food on the counter, bacteria will be growing on the outer layers before the center has finished thawing. Also, avoid marinating your food at room temperature; use the fridge.
- Bacteria can also live on hands, kitchen towels, sponges, cutting boards, and knives. Throughout food preparation, keep everything clean with hot soapy water, and avoid contaminating anything with the juices of raw food. Replace your sponge every few weeks, and use a plastic rather than wooden cutting board.
- Keep your family's food safe by cooking it thoroughly! Red meat (cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit) should have its juices run clear. Fish should flake with a fork. Scramble or cook eggs until the yolk and white aren't runny. Avoid Caesar salad, homemade mayonnaise, chocolate mousse, or any other recipe that calls for raw or partially cooked eggs.
- When it's time to serve your meal, don't use the dishes or utensils that you used to prepare the food.
- Don't leave any perishable foods out more than two hours. If your child is bringing his lunch to school, use an insulated carrier with a cold pack. Teach him to keep his lunch out of direct sunlight, and off the radiator.
- If you have a lot of leftovers, divide portions into small shallow containers for quick and safe cooling in the refrigerator. Keep meats and their stuffing in separate containers. Cold air must always circulate in the fridge, so don't overcrowd it.
- When reheating leftovers, kill the bacteria that have been growing by heating thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring sauces, soups, and gravy to a boil.
If you have any question about food safety, call the USDA's hotline at 1-800-535-4555. You can also send for a free guide, "Preventing Food borne Illness - A Guide to Safe Food Handling" by writing:
United States Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Washington, D.C. 20250