Food safety reminders REMINDERS

By Charlyn Fargo

I teach food safety, and I try to live food safety in my own kitchen. Yes, I have and use a thermometer to check whether the meat I’m cooking is done. We all should. And I’m a stickler for getting leftovers into the refrigerator quickly.

Whether it’s this weekend’s Super Bowl food event or a Valentine’s meal or even a Mardi Gras celebration, food safety needs to be at the top of your list.

Take the Super Bowl – it’s a very popular food “holiday” in the U.S., and this year’s game marked a milestone. Super Bowl 50, dubbed the “Golden Super Bowl,” was played on February 7.

Much has changed since the first Super Bowl was played in 1967. Both tickets and commercials have gotten significantly more expensive, with ticket costs increasing from $12 to over $10K and the price of commercials rising from $42K to $5 million. Instead of university bands, the half time show now features entertainers performing in elaborate costumes on impressive stages.

Just as the game has changed, foodborne illness rules have also evolved. Since the first game, USDA research has found that color and texture are unreliable indicators of safety and doneness. Using a food thermometer is the only way to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products have been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature.

It is now known that kitchen towels – hanging from the cabinet or stove handle – can also be a major source of cross-contamination. To eliminate bacteria, kitchen towels should be washed frequently in the hot cycle of the washing machine. Better yet, use a paper towel, which is designed to be thrown away after one use.

What hasn’t changed in 50 years is the basic message of food safety: clean, separate, cool and chill.

Before and after preparing, handling, or eating food, always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Use clean plates, dishes, and utensils to serve food, and keep surfaces clean.

Make sure raw meat and poultry do not come into contact with other food. Use separate plates and utensils for these items, and never place cooked food back on the same plate that previously held raw food.

Always use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry products. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food and read after the manufacturer-designated time.

  • Cook raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to 145 °F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or eating.
  • Cook raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to 155 °F.
  • Cook raw poultry to 165 °F.

The basic premise is always to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods must have a heat source, and cold foods should be kept on ice to remain at a safe temperature and out of the temperature danger zone of 41 to 135 degrees, where bacteria multiply rapidly.

Leftover foods should be refrigerated promptly and not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Perishable foods left out longer than two hours should be discarded.

Whatever the celebration, think about food safety rules next time you have company over or prepare foods for your family.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service (www.creators.com) and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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