With the recent recall of ground turkey, consumers start to check their freezer and refrigerator for possible product that has been recalled. Checking for recalled food is certainly an important food safety practice to consider. However, continually checking the safe food handling practices in your own home is also very important, and often overlooked.
We are in the season for foodborne illness. This is the time of year where we see the greatest increase in the incidence of foodborne illness in South Dakota and nationally. There are several factors contributing to this increase, and unsafe food handling practices by consumers is certainly one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.
Summertime brings picnics, grilling, camping, boating, family reunions and various outdoor gatherings. When moving the kitchen outdoors, we lack the conveniences such as refrigeration, controlled heat source for cooking, and a kitchen sink with hot and cold running water. All of these challenges contribute the lack of using the 4 C's for reducing the incidence of foodborne illness.
Clean: Rinsing utensils, countertops, and cutting boards with water won't do enough to stop bacteria from spreading. Wash surfaces and utensils after each use with hot soapy water. Then santizie with a bleach solution (1 teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach per quart of water). Flood the cleaned surface with the bleach solution and let it stand for 10 minutes. Rinse with clean water and let the surface dry or pat dry with a fresh paper towel.
Wash fruits and veggies-but not meat, poultry, or eggs! Even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies-wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to theinside as you cut or peel them. Bagged produce marked "pre-washed" is safe to use without further washing. Washing raw meat and poultry can actually help bacteria spread, because their juices may splash onto (and contaminate!) your sink and countertops. All commercial eggs are washed before sale. Any extra handling of the eggs, such as washing, may actually increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.
Don't Cross-contaminate: Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods. Consider a separate cooler for meats and poultry when outdoors. Bacteria can spread if the juices of raw meat, poultry, seafood drip onto ready-to-eat foods. Place raw meat, poultry, and fish in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping or leaking onto other foods. Prepare you food at home as much as possible and buy pre-shaped burgers – the less handling, the better. Don't reuse marinade on a cooked product, or while cooking, or boil it first.Chill: This is a major challenge on a hot day. Be certain to plan a head and have a good supply of ice available. Marinate in the cooler or refrigerator. Get perishable foods and leftovers into the fridge or freezer within two hours. In the summer months, cut this time down to one hour.
Cook: Cooked food is safe only after it's been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color and texture alone are not an indicator whether your food is done. Instead, use a food thermometer to be sure. Make certain a food thermometer is included in your picnic and camping gear – You'll be glad you did. Read the directions carefully that are included with your thermometer.When grilling meats and poultry take the guess work out of cooking – use a food thermometer and cook to minimum final temperatures:
The last safety practice to keep in check – WASH YOUR HANDS often, before and after you eat or prepare food. And, if visiting the farm, playing with pets, and going to the fair, wash your hands.
Enjoy the rest of the summer season, and bring your safe food handling practices into the tail-gating season as well.Contact your local Extension Office for safe food handling practices and FoodSafety.gov for the latest information on the turkey recall.