During the summer months, food safety seems to be a bigger concern. What are some guidelines to follow?
When it comes to safe food handling and preparation at home, you're in control.
To stop microorganisms, remember these four food safety concepts:
- Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
- Separate: Don't cross-contaminate.
- Cook: Cook to proper temperatures.
Here are some additional safety suggestions.
Safe food handling begins at the grocery store. Bacteria grow well in warmer temperatures, so it's important to protect cold or frozen foods.
Make the grocery store the last stop before heading home to avoid leaving food in a hot car. Take food straight home after shopping and immediately refrigerate cold items. In hot weather, pack cold foods in ice if the time from the store to home will be more than an hour.
Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags to avoid contamination from drippings. Keep them separate from other food items in the cart.
Watch food condition. Don't buy canned goods with large dents, cracks or bulges. Be sure refrigerated food is cold to the touch and frozen food is rock-solid.
Don't buy fresh meat, poultry or seafood from temporary stands.
At home, use a thermometer to check refrigerator and freezer temperatures. To slow bacterial growth, keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees or cooler (without freezing your milk or produce). Keep freezers at zero for best food quality.
Place raw meat, poultry or seafood on a plate or in a plastic bag and store on a lower refrigerator shelf to avoid contaminating other foods with drippings.
Cover all foods to protect them from drips and to hold quality.
Freeze fresh meat or poultry immediately if it won't be used within a few days.
Keep hands clean to help prevent food-borne illness. Always wash hands in hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before preparing food.
Frequently wash and change kitchen towels, sponges and cloths.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing food items, especially raw meats and poultry. Spray surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon regular chlorine bleach in 1 gallon water. Label spray bottle as "sanitizer."
Thaw meat or poultry in the refrigerator or microwave or under cold running water in kitchen sink. Cook immediately.
Use acrylic cutting boards, which can be washed in the dishwasher. Replace when the surface becomes rough.
Marinate raw meat and vegetable products in the refrigerator. Never reuse marinade.
Keep raw meat and its juices away from other foods.
Cook food thoroughly to kill bacteria. Don't chance illness by eating meat, poultry, seafood or eggs that are raw or only partially cooked.
Roast meat or poultry in ovens at 325 degrees or higher.
Use a meat thermometer to help determine doneness. Dial or digital thermometers are available, as are disposable thermometer sticks.
Keep a temperature chart (available from K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County) in the kitchen and refer to it when cooking.
Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw and cooked meat, poultry and seafood separate. Use one plate for raw food and another for cooked food.
Refrigerate promptly. Never let food sit out of the refrigerator for more than two hours when preparing, serving and eating. (At summer outings, when temperatures are 90 degrees or higher, let food sit out no more than one hour.)
Pack lunches and picnic foods with cold packs in insulated carriers, and don't leave them in direct sun.
Divide large amounts of leftover foods, such as soup, into shallow containers for quick cooling. For larger items, such as a whole turkey, cut meat off bones. Cover and place in the refrigerator or freezer.
Date leftovers and use within four days of refrigeration.
Reheat sauces, soups and gravies to boiling; reheat other leftovers until they're piping hot 165 degrees throughout.
When reheating by microwave, cover leftovers with a lid or vented plastic wrap. Stir foods several times to cook evenly, and let food stand for several minutes after microwaving.
Discard leftovers and other foods that look or smell strange or are old. Never taste them harmful bacteria often do not change food's taste or odor. Be careful with moldy foods; most should be discarded.
Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.