With summer coming, I thought it was the right time to remind everyone of a few rules of thumb when it comes to food safety. We do a lot of outdoor cooking and eating and practicing good food safety habits will help keep your guests safe and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. People with compromised immune systems, like pregnant women, newborns and older adults should avoid certain foods altogether, but no one can avoid the results of spoiled or contaminated food. Food bacteria, like salmonella and E. coli, don’t cause food to smell bad or change in color. There is no way to tell if a food is contaminated, so it is important to follow these safety tips:
1. Refrigerate foods until ready to eat. Perishable food should never be away from refrigeration for more than two hours, if outside in 90F or higher, the food should be thrown out after an hour. Food borne bacteria grows fastest when food is left at temperatures between 40 and 140. So leaving it on a hot plate while at shul - okay, leaving it out on the counter –not okay.
2. Cook foods to the proper temperature. The only way to know that hamburgers are fully cooked is to use a thermometer. A burger cooked to 160F throughout the patty is safe. Steaks and roasts can be cooked to 145F. Whole poultry should be cooked to 170F when measuring from the breast.
3. Keep it clean. Wash hands and surfaces often. Use separate sponges for cleaning counters and washing dishes. Clean fruit and vegetables -- even those with skin you are going to peel, before cutting.
4. Avoid cross contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry and eggs away from other foods that you eat raw, like fruits and vegetables.
5. Thaw properly. Thaw meat in the microwave or refrigerator. Never leave meat on the counter to thaw.