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Food Safety

Food Safety Grilling Tips

If you like to microwave food, especially meat, to partially cook it so grilling time is reduced, it is important that you put the food on the preheated grill as soon as you take it from the microwave. Don’t partially cook food and plan to grill it later. To prevent cross-contamination, use a clean platter to hold the cooked meat for serving, not the same one used to transport raw meat to the grill. An easy tip is to cover your platter with foil when using it for raw meat and then remove and discard the foil before putting cooked meat on the platter.

Cookin' Slow

Slow cookers can be great helpers when fixing a hearty-homestyle meal…spending a few minutes combining ingredients in the morning results in a delicious home-cooked meal at the end of the day. There are a few food safety guidelines to follow to make sure you keep your food safe for your family. To cook properly, fill the slow cooker NO LESS than half full and NO MORE than two-thirds full. DO NOT fill it up to the top! If you prep ingredients ahead of time (like cutting up veggies or meat), store them separately in the refrigerator until ready to turn on the cooker. Do not start with frozen ingredients unless using a frozen slow cooker meal and then follow package directions. Do not store cooked/leftover food in the slow cooker…transfer to a shallow container and refrigerate promptly. It is especially important NOT TO REHEAT food in the slow cooker; it’s okay to reheat in the microwave, on top of the stove or in the oven and then use the slow cooker to keep food warm. Keep the cooker covered! The tight-fitting lid creates steam and holds in the heat to ensure a safe cooking temperature.

Food Myth

Home Food Safety Myth: Do not put hot food into the refrigerator. Actually, hot food CAN be placed directly into the refrigerator so it can be properly chilled. A large pot of hot food like soup or chili should be divided into shallow containers and then refrigerated. Food is NOT SAFE if left out at room temperature for more than two hours and should be discarded.

Turkey Food Safety, Part I

If you use a frozen turkey for holiday meals, be sure to plan ahead to allow for proper thawing. The best way to thaw the turkey is in the refrigerator; plan 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey weight. So, a 15-pound turkey may take 3-4 days to thaw. The other option is to thaw in cold water by keeping the turkey in its original packaging and putting in a clean, sanitized sink or other container and keeping it submerged in COLD water. Figure thawing time of about 30 minutes per pound, so that 15 pound turkey will take 7-8 hours to thaw. DO NOT thaw on the kitchen counter at room temperature! Stuffing ingredients should be combined right before putting into the turkey to roast. Check the temperature of the stuffing with a thermometer; it should reach 165°. Experts recommend that stuffing/dressing should be baked in a separate casserole dish because the turkey may well be overcooked by the time the stuffing reaches 165°.

Turkey Food Safety, Part II

For safe roasting of your turkey, your oven should be set at NO LESS than 325° (300° if using a convection oven). That means NO overnight roasting at 200°. Also, DO NOT use a brown paper bag for your turkey…grocery bags may contain recycled material, glue, ink, other chemicals and maybe even metal shavings. They are not sanitary and were never intended to be used as a cooking utensil. There may be online instructions of how to roast in a paper bag, BUT the real experts caution that it is NOT SAFE! If desired, consider using an oven cooking bag designed for this purpose. To make sure your turkey is thoroughly cooked to a safe temperature, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature by inserting into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching any bone. The minimum safe temperature should be at least 165°, but it can be cooked to a higher temperature because of personal preference. Do not depend solely on the accuracy of a pop-up timer. For ease in carving, put a foil tent over the turkey and let it rest 20 minutes. For More Turkey Food Safety Info: Contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or click on http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Seasonal_Food_Safety_Fact_Sheets/index.asp

Mind Your Fruits & Veggies

You already thoroughly rinse raw, fresh produce under running water before preparing or eating it, but are you careful to refrigerate fruits and vegetables after they have been peeled or cut up?  Bacteria can grow on the cut surfaces of fruits and vegetables, so don’t leave cut produce at room temperature very long.

Watch Your Sprouts

Did you know that even sprouts carry the risk of being contaminated with bacteria that can make you sick?  Any fresh produce item that is consumed raw or lightly cooked carries a risk of foodborne illness.  The warm and humid conditions needed to sprout and grow beans and other seeds are also perfect conditions for bacteria to grow, whether grown commercially or at home.  Anyone with weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, the elderly and children should not eat raw sprouts of any kind, including alfalfa, radish, clover or bean.

Cook Bacteria Away

If you rinse raw meat, poultry or seafood before you prepare it to cook, you may actually be increasing the chance of spreading bacteria that could make you sick.  If bacteria are present, rinsing will spread it to your sink, kitchen counter and other surfaces and won’t eliminate it from the raw food.  Experts recommend that raw meat, poultry and seafood NOT be rinsed, but cooked to the proper temperature to destroy the bacteria.

Wash Up

Correctly washing your hands before and after you handle food and before eating is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick from a foodborne illness.  Washing correctly is the key!  A quick rinse isn’t enough…you should wash hands with soap under running water and scrub all surfaces.  That includes the back of hands, the palms and in-between fingers.  It should take a good 20 seconds to wash properly.

Chillin'

Whether packing lunch for work or school, be sure to follow food safety guidelines so you don’t get sick from perishable food.  If the lunch cannot be refrigerated, the best option is to use an insulated soft-sided bag and at least one frozen gel pack.  Also, chill as many things ahead of time, even non-perishable items like whole fruit, and everything will stay fresh longer.  If it is too difficult to keep perishable lunches cold, pack only non-perishable items.

Methyl Mercury

Is it safe to eat seafood if I’m pregnant?  If you are pregnant, nursing or thinking of getting pregnant, you should avoid consuming too much methyl mercury, which can harm an unborn child’s developing nervous system.  It is found in certain fish like shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel; all of which should be avoided.  But, you can enjoy the nutritional benefits of other seafood if you eat varieties like catfish, shrimp, canned light (not albacore) tuna, salmon and Pollock.  Two meals a week, or about 12 oz., is perfectly safe!

Fresh Produce

Take care when choosing, storing and preparing fresh produce.  Fresh cut produce like watermelon, fresh pineapple or salad greens should be sold from either a refrigerated case or needs to be surrounded with ice.  It is perishable and should be refrigerated as soon as possible when you get home.  Thoroughly wash all fresh produce before eating…use clean running water right before eating, cutting or cooking.  Even produce that will be peeled or items like melons should be cleaned before cutting.  Using soap, detergent or commercial produce washes IS NOT recommended.

Lunch Box

If you pack lunch for adults or children in the family, get in the habit of cleaning any food containers and lunch bags/boxes every day by washing with warm soapy water after each use.  And, as much as you’d like to think that the kids will wash their hands before eating lunch every day, it’s probably not going to happen.  So, stash a moist towelette or small bottle of hand sanitizer in with lunch…just be sure the bottle is tightly closed first!

Keepin' It Cool

Our deli’s fried chicken is a great food to enjoy on a summer picnic. Experts recommend that you make sure the chicken is good and cold before putting it in your ice chest, unless you plan to eat it warm within one hour. Your ice chest or cooler is designed to keep foods cold, not to do the job of a refrigerator.

Mayo's Bad Rep

Did you know that mayonnaise is not the “bad guy” when it comes to potential problems with “food poisoning” from summer salads like potato salad, egg salad or chicken salad? Since commercial mayonnaise is made from pasteurized eggs and is quite acidic because of the vinegar or lemon juice, it actually inhibits or can kill bacteria. The cooked potatoes, chicken or eggs left out of refrigeration are what can cause “food poisoning,” not the mayo!

Beat the Heat

When you are cooking out or enjoying a summer picnic in hot weather, above 90°, perishable food should not be left out more than one hour. If you have leftovers, and they have not been kept in a cooler, please plan to throw them away. Any potential food-borne bacteria will thrive and multiply in these hot temperatures!

Marinade Madness

If you like to marinate meat before cooking it on the grill, remember to keep it refrigerated while you marinate it. And, if you like to use some of the marinade as a dipping sauce for the cooked meat, be sure to set some aside; any that has been in contact with the raw meat should be discarded.

Spring Cleaning

When planning your spring cleaning, include your freezer and refrigerator. Take inventory of the food you have and if you can't remember when you bought it, it's probably time to throw it away! Wipe down shelves with warm soapy water and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature. For best quality of your food, your freezer should be kept at zero degrees or lower and your refrigerator should be at 40 degrees or less.

Sunny Side Up

To prevent illness from any bacteria that may be in fresh eggs, keep them refrigerated, cook them until yolks are firm and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Store eggs in their original carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the egg compartment on the refrigerator door. If you like to eat eggs cooked sunny side up or you have recipes that call for uncooked eggs, use pasteurized in-shell eggs.

Paper, Cloth or Sponge

Consider using paper towels to clean up your kitchen surfaces. If you do use cloth towels or sponges, be sure to wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Sponges can also be sterilized in the microwave; wet the sponge with clean water and microwave on high for two minutes.

Smell Test

Do you ever taste or smell leftover food to see if it's still good to eat? That may not be the best way to determine the safety of food because the types of bacteria that cause you to get sick don't change the taste, smell or appearnce of food. Keep leftover food refrigerated no more than three to four days then discard.

How Long will Leftovers Keep?

You will probably have leftovers after holiday meals….after all, that's a big part of the meal for many people! It's important to handle leftovers properly and use them up in a timely manner.

Start by dividing leftovers into smaller containers and refrigerate or freeze within two hours of when you start eating. Be sure to remove any stuffing from inside the turkey and carve any remaining turkey meat from the bones. (Invest in an appliance thermometer so you know your refrigerator is 40° or a little colder and the freezer is 0° or colder.)

Reheat cooked leftovers to 165° as checked with a food thermometer. Gravy, soup or sauces should be reheated to a boil and other foods should be steaming hot. If reheating in the microwave, cover food, stir and rotate during heating. Check that there are no “cold spots” in the dish of food.

Use cooked meat, casseroles, stuffing and gravy within 3 to 4 days if kept in the refrigerator. If you won’t finish up leftovers by then, wrap or store in airtight packaging and store in the freezer about 2 to 3 months for best quality. (Stuffing should be used within one month.)

BAC!® to School: Quick Tips to Packing a Safe Lunch

When it's back-to-school time, Fight BAC!® wants to remind parents and families across the country that the first important lesson of the school year is packing a safe lunch. All it takes is a quick refresher course:

Pack a Safe Lunch 101

Quick Tips to Packing a Safe School Lunch

* Always keep it clean. Wash your hands in with warm water and soap, and use hot, soapy water to make sure food-preparation surfaces and utensils are clean. Teach your children to wash their hands with warm water and soap before they eat. Also, rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water and blot dry with a paper towel before packing them in your child's lunch.

* Be sure to keep hot foods such as soup, chili or stew hot by using an insulated bottle. Fill the bottle with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes. Empty the bottle and then fill it with piping hot food. Keep the bottle closed until lunchtime.

* Insulated, soft-sided lunch totes are best for keeping perishable food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. A cold source, such as a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box, should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box. After lunch, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse paper or plastic bags.

* Freezer gel packs will keep foods cold until lunchtime, but are not recommended for all-day storage.

* Try freezing single-sized juice packs overnight and placing the frozen drink in your child's lunch. If your child's lunchtime is late enough, the juice will thaw by lunchtime, but it will still be cold. The frozen drink will also keep the rest of the lunch cold.

* Tell your child to use the refrigerator at school, if one is available. If not, make sure he or she keeps the lunch out of direct sunlight and away from radiators, baseboards and other heat sources found in the classroom.

* Any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, egg sandwiches, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables) not eaten at lunch should be thrown away.

* Every parent should have a supply of shelf-stable foods for easy packing. These include crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, packaged pudding and canned fruits or meats.

* If you make sandwiches the night before, keep them in the refrigerator until packing up to go in the morning.

Resources If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact:

* The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854). The TTY number for the hearing impaired is 800-256-7072. Or visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Information Line at 888-SAFE-FOOD. Or visit online at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/.

Information provided by the Partnership for Food Safety Education Fightbac web site.

Tips for Handling Leftovers

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures above 90 °F. This includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions to this rule are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits. Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Turkey legs, wings and thighs may be left whole. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food. The above information came from the Partnership for Food Safety Education Fightbac web site. www.fightbac.org

Egg-Stra! Egg-Stra!

Before the hunt . . .

* Wash your hands thoroughly before handling eggs at every preparation step, including cooking, cooling, dyeing, and hiding.

* Only use eggs that have been refrigerated and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty.

* When cooking, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan. Add water to at least one inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil, and carefully remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large, 12 minutes for medium). Immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air-dry.

* When decorating, be sure to use food grade dyes. It is safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring, and fruit-drink powders. When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell.

* Keep hard-cooked Easter eggs refrigerated until just before the hunt. Keep them fully chilled by storing them on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door.

* Consider buying one set of eggs for decorating only and another set for eating.

During the hunt . . .

* Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets, and other potential sources of bacteria.

* To prevent bacterial growth, don't let eggs sit in hiding places for more than 2 hours.

After the hunt . . .

* Discard any eggs that were cracked, dirty, or that children didn't find within 2 hours.

* Place the eggs back in the refrigerator until it's chow time!

HAPPY SPRING!

The above information came from the Partnership for Food Safety Education Fightbac web site. For more information on handling eggs safely visit www.fightbac.org.

Proper Use of Cutting Boards

Using cutting boards properly is an important step in keeping your food safe.

* You should always wash your cutting board after you have raw meat on it. If fact you need to wash the cutting board after preparing each food item and before going on to the next food item.

* If possible, use a different cutting board for raw meat products.

* When your cutting board becomes excessively worn or gets hard to clean grooves, you need to replace it.

Frozen Food

Handling frozen food correctly is important for the safety and quality of frozen products. It is important to remember that freezing does not kill all bacteria. It does slow its growth however once the product is thawed the growth could continue. So it is important to follow these guidelines when storing food in the freezer.

* All frozen food should remain in a frozen state.

* Make sure to rotate items in your freezer use the product that has been in the freezer the longest first.

* Keep your freezer door closed as much as possible.

* Never refreeze a thawed product, cook it and then place it in the freezer.

* Use the proper freezer containers, baggies and wrapping when placing items in the freezer.

* Always label the items that you put into the freezer with a date and the contents.

* Do not place hot items in your freezer it will cause the temperature of the unit to rise and allow for thawing of food.

By following these simple steps you can keep your frozen items safer.

Thermometers

No kitchen should be without a food thermometer. After all a food thermometer is the only way to ensure a proper cooking temperature. If you need a thermometer make certain you buy one that is easy to use, read and understand. When you get it home make sure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Before the first use wash it and make sure to wash it after every additional use. It must be stored properly and handled with care. Tossing a thermometer around, dropping it or exposing it to extreme temperature changes will cause it to need calibration more frequently.

To check a thermometer to see if it needs calibration follow these steps:

* Fill a cup with ice and then add water.

* Place the thermometer in the glass.

* It should read 32 degrees fahrenheit.

If the temperature is not 32 degrees fahrenheit follow the manufacturer's direction on how to calibrate it. (Some thermometers are not made to be calibrated. This type must be discarded when its out of calibration.)

When using the thermometer be sure to use it in the thickest part of the food and away from the bone.

Proper Cooking Temperatures

Cooking food(s) to the proper internal temperature is one of the most important things you can do to keep foods safe. Remember you can not rely on sight to tell if an item is done. Using a food thermometer to check the internal temperature, is the only way to ensure food(s) have been cooked properly. When using a food thermometer be sure to put the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from the bone. Below is a list of the proper internal cooking temperatures.

Ground Beef....................160°

Poultry..............................165°

Pork, beef, lamb and veal steaks and roasts (at least)..................145° (and allow to rest at least 3 minutes.  May cook to higher temperature if desired)

Fresh beef (steaks and roasts)

Medium rare....................145°

Medium............................160°

Well done.........................170°

Left overs.........................165°

Ground Beef Safety

Food City is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safest products to our customers. To ensure the safety of our ground beef products after it leaves the store, we would like to offer these food safety tips:

* Always make Food City your last stop before home.

* Place your ground beef in refrigerator as soon as you arrive home.

* Always thaw frozen ground beef in the refrigerator. Never set it out on the counter at room temperature.

* Never put any product on the same plate that held the raw ground beef.

* Keep everything clean-hands, counters and utensils.

* Always cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

* Use a clean thermometer to check the internal temperature of all ground beef products you cook.

How to Properly Thaw Frozen Food

Proper thawing of frozen food is critical to help prevent contamination and/or spoilage. You should never thaw food at room temperature. This can cause bacteria to grow and multiply on the surface of the item. Thaw food by one of these four methods:

* Allow to thaw in a refrigerator. Foods must remain below 40 degrees F. Also remember large items will take longer to thaw so you will need to plan ahead.

* Thaw under drinkable running water. The water temperature must always remain below 70 degrees F.

* As part of the cooking process. This method will require a longer cooking time.

* In the microwave oven. This can only be done if the item is going to be cooked immediately after it is thawed.

How to Properly Wash Hands to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Do you know what the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of foodborne illness? Properly washing your hands! Just like in the food service industry, when cooking at home you should always try to be a barrier against bacteria. So what can you do to properly wash you hands? First, lets go over how to wash you hands.

* Wet them with warm water.

* Apply soap, lather vigorously for 20 seconds (that's long enough to sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice)

* Rinse with warm water.

* Finally dry with a single use paper towel.

I know all that sounds simple enough, but next time you wash your hands time yourself. Most people never make the 20 second mark, and if you are not washing for 20 seconds, you may be leaving bacteria on your hands.

So now that you know how to wash your hands let's go over some times when you you should wash them.

1. Everytime you use the restroom facilities.

2. After you cough, sneeze or use a disposable tissue.

3. After you touch floors, walls, doorknobs and garbage.

4. After you touch hair, nose, mouth, etc...

5. When switching between working with raw food, fresh shell egg and unwashed produce to cooked/ready to eat product.

Remember the main point is, your hands must always be clean when handling food.

Ground Beef Facts

If you have ever bought a package of ground beef and it was a nice bright red color on the outside, but a dull, gray-brown or even purple color on the inside, THAT’S NORMAL! The meat is NOT SPOILED!

The natural pigment in meat reacts with oxygen in the air to produce a bright red color called “bloom.” The special packaging used for ground beef allows oxygen to penetrate the plastic so the outside of the meat more quickly “blooms.” The oxygen doesn’t usually reach the inside of the meat package so the meat on the inside doesn’t “bloom” and has a darker color. When the interior is exposed to oxygen, you will see the color change to bright red.

For more information about meat food safety, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-674-6854 or visit their website: www.fsis.usda.gov.