Thanksgiving Food Safety

It’s that time of year again! We’re all getting ready to spend some time with family and friends, enjoy the holidays and EAT especially at Thanksgiving!!

Check out our Food Safety Tips on our home page for more detail but here are a couple really important points:
• If you’re purchasing a frozen turkey, keep it frozen until 2 or 3 days before you’re ready to cook it. Thaw your turkey in its original wrapper on a large rimmed pan IN THE REFRIGERATOR. Thawing time depends upon the size of your turkey, but a 10-12lb turkey will take at least 48-60 hours. A thawed turkey can sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. DO NOT BUY a pre-stuffed turkey!! You don’t know how long it’s been sitting in the store and harmful bacteria can multiply very fast.
• To ensure safe cooking, prepare your stuffing separately…it’s called dressing now but it’s the same good stuff! Bread is a great insulator and absorbs harmful bacteria. Improper cooking (too long on low heat) will allow bacteria to grow and produce toxins….even if you cook the turkey to the proper temperature; the toxins are not destroyed by heat.
• Cook your turkey to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
• To check the doneness of your turkey stick a thermometer in the thickest portion of the breast away from the bone. If the temperature reads 165°F the turkey is safe to eat, it won’t hurt to let it go to 170°F in fact I’ve found that most people prefer their turkey at that temperature. No matter what, make sure it’s at least 165.

We will also add some great recipes if you’re looking to change things up a bit this year!

Food Safety Education Month – Providing Safe Food

September is here! That means back to school and national Food Safety Education Month! We’re all getting back into our new school year routines: preparing lunches, arranging rides to and from practice, and ensuring the foods we pack in our lunches is safe!
Whether the food we prepare for ourselves or our families is meant to be consumed immediately or packaged for a later day or time, there are certain guidelines that we should follow to make sure we do everything we can to prevent foodborne illnesses. The Partnership for Food Safety Education, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation, has summarized these safe practice topics as “clean, separate, cook and chill”. If we can remember to follow these basic guidelines, the 2013-14 school year may go a little smoother!
Proper Cleaning
Always wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. Poor personal hygiene significantly contributes to foodborne illnesses in the US.
Wash, rinse and sanitize all utensils and food preparation surfaces. Cross-contamination, the transfer of pathogens from one food item to another resulting from contaminated food preparation surfaces and utensils, can effectively be eliminated from the mix by properly scraping, washing, rinsing, sanitizing and air drying cutting boards, knives, rubber spatulas and all the other gadgets we have in our kitchens.
Discard uneaten food products. Remind your kids to discard any food they don’t eat at lunch. If possible, thoroughly rinse (better to wash, rinse and sanitize) re-usable containers before sticking them back in their backpacks or lockers to help reduce bacterial growth.
Washing, rinsing and DRYING fresh fruits and vegetables. No one likes a soggy sandwich anyway, so make sure that the lettuce on that chicken salad sandwich is dry before storing it or placing it on the sandwich. We should be drying all fresh fruits and vegetables. Consider the fact that fruits and veggies are grown outside in an environment filled with microorganisms some of which are pathogenic and they are probably covering every part of those deliciously fresh items. Although some items are often trimmed and rinsed before packaging and transporting to your local fruit market or grocery store, they are still loaded with bacteria, fungi and perhaps viruses. The purpose of rinsing those produce items is to remove loose particles such as stones, stems and soil not necessarily preparing it for consumption.
When it comes to pathogenic bacteria one way to effectively control the growth rate of those potentially dangerous pests is to reduce the level of available moisture. The FDA has issued guidance on washing and drying produce items. Although we can’t eliminate all the water in fresh produce but we can eliminate the water on produce. After we get the produce items home we should wash it under running tap water before using it unless it’s bagged and labeled as “ready-to-eat”. The FDA recommends washing produce under running water that is at least 10F warmer than the item being washed as this will assist in preventing the microorganism from penetrating the produce. It is also recommended to thoroughly dry the produce either by patting dry with a single use paper towel or by the use of a salad spinner type apparatus. This will help reduce the amount of available water for bacteria to use thereby reducing the number of bacteria present on the product. It is also recommended that all produce be refrigerated, again to reduce the growth rate of harmful bacteria.
Keep in mind that we must assume that the pathogens are always present; we just have to do our job to effectively reduce their numbers to a safe level before we consume the products.

Cyclospora Illnesses Reach 630

According to the CDC, the number of reported Cyclospora infection cases reached 630 yesterday in 22 states, 31 cases were reported in Florida making it the 4th largest state in this outbreak. According to Food Safety News most of the cases (257) were reported in Texas during June & July and mostly in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. What makes the process of determining how many cases there actually are is that it can take several weeks for the symptoms of Cyclospora to show up and the symptoms aren’t necessarily uncommon (nausea and diarrhea) however those symptoms can last for several days or even weeks after exposure to the parasite.

Image courtesy of nuchylee

The only way we can really avoid exposure? Don’t eat produce or drink water where the organism is present. I know, not very helpful, but Cyclospora are resistant to chlorine and there isn’t a vaccine to prevent it from infecting humans. In the mean time, I agree with Dr. Criag Hedberg, environmental health professor at the University of Minnesota, what we can do is have better coordination between the state and federal regulatory/inspection agencies so that when an outbreak begins they can easily track and then intervene in the supply chain to help control the outbreak. Until then, purchase produce from approved, reputable suppliers and wash it well before consumption. This leads to additional controversy about pre-washed lettuce and salad mixes. Research indicates that re-washing produce that has been commercially washed and packaged as ready-to-eat could introduce pathogens and make the pre-washed safe food, unsafe!