Each year, millions of Americans get sick from harmful bacteria present in the foods they eat. The symptoms, which can occur anytime from 20 minutes to up to six weeks later, are often disguised as the flu. In most cases, this type of food-borne illness can be prevented by taking a little extra care in preparing, cooking and storing foods. Follow these basic guidelines.
Food safety begins at the grocery store with the proper selection of foods and by keeping certain items such as raw meat, poultry and seafood separated from other foods in the cart. When shopping for perishables, always check the sell-by or use-by date. Shop for refrigerated products and other perishables last, bag cold foods together and put them away first once home.
Separate for Safety
Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator.
Use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for raw meat, poultry and seafood to avoid cross contamination.
Make it a Wash
Wash hands before, during and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Wash countertops and sinks with hot, soapy water and/or sanitize counters with a chlorine bleach solution or disinfectant.
Wash produce under cold water immediately before eating. Scrub thick-skinned produce like melons, potatoes and carrots with a brush.
When preparing leafy vegetables, remove and discard the outer leaves and wash and drain thoroughly before cooking and serving.
Always remove any damaged or bruised areas from fruits and vegetables. Refrigerate cut or peeled produce immediately.
Thawing and cooking foods properly helps prevent and destroy harmful bacteria. Leaving food on the counter to marinate or thaw invites harmful bacteria and should be avoided. When cooking raw meats, poultry or seafood, the only sure way to destroy harmful bacteria is to use a thermometer. Don’t judge by color, internal temperature is the only true indicator of whether a piece of meat is done.
Thaw foods in refrigerator, under cold water or microwave.
Thaw foods in the microwave only when you are going to cook them immediately.
Select from a wide variety of instant-read, digital, probes, pop-up timers, sensors and BBQ forks to prevent under or over cooking and assure safety.
When cooking with a microwave, even out cooking by stirring, turning, and allowing food to stand for a few minutes.
Because food cooks unevenly in the microwave, use thermometers in two to three different areas to assure safe temperatures throughout.
Color Changes of Ground Beef
Fresh ground beef goes through a normal color change known as bloom. Oxygen in the air causes the surface of fresh ground beef to turn bright red. The inside, not exposed to the air, will be darker, purple to red color.
Most people believe that cooked ground beef is safe to eat if it’s no longer pink inside. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one out of four hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it reaches safe temperatures, while some burgers may still have a hint of pink upon reaching 160ºF.
Internal Temperature Cooking Guide
Fresh Beef, Veal or Lamb
Bring to a boil
Until opaque; flakes easily with a fork
Until yolks and whites are firm
Keep it cold! Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours of purchase or preparation, including serving and eating time.
Store fresh cut or peeled raw produce in the refrigerator.
Store it Right
Store leftovers in small, shallow containers to cook quicker and avoid spoiling.
Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in leak proof containers or plastic bags.
Let Nature Help
Do not wash fresh produce before storing. The whitish, waxy coating you’ll see on some produce items is nature’s way of protecting it from moisture loss and decay. Do wash produce immediately before preparing and eating.