Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Food Safety Tips

I know it's not a pleasant topic, but foodborne illnesses can quickly change a happy holiday gathering in to something memorable for less-than-pleasant reasons. But following safe food handling practices will lessen our chances of getting sick during the holidays.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, typical symptoms of foodborne illness include stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, which often start a few days after consuming contaminated food or drink. The symptoms usually aren't long-lasting in healthy people — a few hours or a few days — and go away without treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to those most at risk, FDA officials say. Those most at risk include older adults, infants and young children; pregnant women; people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune systems.

The following is some food safety tips from the FDA. Most of us already follow proper food handling procedures, but it can't hurt to get a reminder:

1. Clean: The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean.

* Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. (Just Mom has Just Son sing "Happy Birthday" slowly while washing his hands.)

* Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) after preparing each food item and before going on to the next item.

* Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

* Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops.

2. Separate: Don't give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another (cross-contaminate).

* Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked while shopping in the store, and while preparing and storing at home.

* Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one only for ready-to-eat foods (such as raw fruits and vegetables).

*Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate that has held raw meat.

3. Cook: Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

* Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast of the turkey but not touching bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 180ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165ºF. Make sure oysters in oyster dressing are thoroughly cooked.

* Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.

* Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.

* Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

4. Chill: Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature.

* Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods within two hours.

* Set your refrigerator no higher than 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.

* Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

* Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs two to three days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator. If a turkey is not properly thawed, the outside of the turkey will be done before the inside, and the inside will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria.

For More Information, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/ or http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/.

Other numbers to know:
* FDA Food Information Line: 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366)

* USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)
TTY 1-800-256-7072


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!

Spinning Mind said...

Food Habits and cleanliness are more important for a pregnant woman than medicine,its nice to know more information about it. But i read that mercury poisoning may cause our babies mentally retarded. http://empoweredhospital.com/story_622.html

Unknown said...

You are so right about this. I think people should be more cautious and proactive especially at Holiday time when there is so much preping and cooking going on.