How to Know if a Recipe Is Safe

We see many video and print recipes on social media. How do you know if a recipe is safe to use? Fight Bac, a partnership of organizations devoted to food safety, has these tips to ensure your meals don’t include a side of foodborne illness.

  1. Wash your hands. Up to 99% of people don’t correctly wash their hands when preparing food at home. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds. If you sing “Happy Birthday” twice, that is about 20 seconds.
  2. Cook the food to the correct temperature to ensure it is safe to consume. Poultry should be cooked to 165°F; ground meat to 160°F; steaks, chops, roasts, and fish to 145°F. Cook all other foods to at least 140°F. Check our “How to Use a Food Thermometer” video and handout to learn more about taking the temperature of food, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/use-a-food-thermometer.
  3. Don’t cross contaminate. Cross contamination occurs when foodborne bacteria and viruses spread from one food or surface to another.
    • Wash the cutting board, counter, utensils, and serving plate thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after they have touched raw meat, poultry, or fish.
    • Do not rinse raw poultry or meat. Rinsing meat can cause bacteria on the meat to spread through the air.
    • Do not use marinades previously used on raw foods for the cooked product.
  4. Wash fresh produce, unless it’s prewashed salads. This video shows you how to properly wash produce: spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/clean-fruits-vegetables.

Sources:

Safe Recipe Guide, www.saferecipeguide.org
Food Safety and Inspection Service, www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/featured-campaign/superbowl/talking-points

Washing Leafy Greens

Leafy greens need to be handled safely just like any other food. Start with washing your hands with soap and water. Cut away any damaged areas on the leaves or stems.

If the label on the leafy greens bag DOES NOT say “prewashed” or “ready to eat,” thoroughly wash the greens under running water just before chopping, cooking, or eating.

Washing greens in water

If the leafy greens label DOES say “prewashed” or “ready to eat,” use the greens without washing. If you wash leafy greens before storing, you can potentially promote bacterial growth and enhance spoilage.

Wash only what you intend to eat. After washing fresh greens, pat dry with paper towels or a fresh clean towel—or use a salad spinner—to help remove excess liquid. Never wash leafy greens with soap, detergent, or bleach because these can leave residues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend using commercial produce washes because these also may leave residues.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, March 2018, (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/washing-leafy-greens)

Farmers Market Food Safety

While farmers markets are a great source of fresh produce, here are some tips for keeping those foods safe:

  • Choose produce that is free of bruising and spoiling. Do not purchase if the skin is broken, is slimy, or has soft spots.
  • Go home directly from the market and store produce according to the fruit and vegetable storage guide, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/store-fruits-vegetables. The quality of produce will decrease if left in a vehicle for too long.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing produce.
  • Wash produce just before use—not before storing. Washing prior to storing will cause the produce to spoil faster. Before use, rinse produce with clean running water. Rub briskly to clean surfaces and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Spend Smart. Eat Smart.offers more information about cleaning produce, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/clean-fruits-vegetables.
  • Wash reusable grocery totes frequently in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water. Clean all areas where you place your totes, such as the kitchen counter, to reduce the spread of illness-causing microorganisms. Store totes in a clean, dry location, not the trunk of a vehicle.

Sources:

Eat Right, www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/separate/reusable-grocery-tote-safety
University of Minnesota, extension.umn.edu/farmers-markets/shopping-farmers-markets

Scrub by Scrub: The Importance of Washing Your Produce

Strainer of asparagus

As we transition from winter to spring, many fruits and vegetables—like asparagus and strawberries—start to be in season! It is very important to remember to wash fresh produce prior to eating in order to remove any harmful bacteria like E. coli or listeria. The next time you reach for a fruit or vegetable, use these strategies to ensure it’s clean and fresh:

  • Wash your produce immediately before eating. Washing some produce—like berries—before storing actually hastens spoilage.
  • Wash all produce in cold water; do not use detergents or soap to clean the outside of your fruit.
  • Try using a vegetable brush for fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin.
  • Produce that has tiny nooks and crannies—like cauliflower and broccoli—should be soaked in cold, clean water for one to two minutes.
  • You don’t need to rewash products that are labeled “ready to eat” or “triple washed.”

For visual demonstrations of other ways to select, store, and prepare food, check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/videos).

Handling Avocados Safely

sliced avocados

Bacteria love avocados almost as much as people do. Unlike most fruits, the avocado is low in acid. That makes it good for bacterial growth. In addition, we like to eat avocados raw, which means we don’t kill the bacteria by cooking.

Based on a 2014–2016 study, the FDA found that about 18% of avocados had Listeria monocytogenes on their skins. In small amounts, this germ isn’t dangerous for healthy adults. However, it can cause serious harm to young children, older people, and pregnant women.

  • To prepare an avocado safely, you first need to wash your handscarefully.
  • Then rinse the avocado’s skin thoroughly before you cut it open.Otherwise, the blade will carry the germs on the skin into the pulp.
  • Throw away the skin and the pit promptly.
  • To avoid bacterial growth, eat the avocado as soon as possible aftercutting and peeling.

Source: Colorado State University: Food Source Information, fsi.colostate.edu/avocados/#food-safety

Be the Food Safety MVP on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:

  • Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
  • Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
  • Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
bowl of chili

For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

Holiday Food Safety Hacks

Food is a big part of holiday celebrations. Follow these safe food handling tips to prevent unwelcome foodborne illness from ruining your holidays!

  • Safely thaw food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in a cool water bath (change water every 30 minutes).
  • Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wash countertops, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles and utensils.
  • Use two cutting boards, one to prepare raw meats and one to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
  • Place leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of serving.
Washing hands in sink

Adapted from 10 Holiday Home Food Safety Tips (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/holidays/10-holiday-home-food-safety-tips)

Ugly Fruits and Vegetables – Are They Safe?

Grocery shoppers tend to avoid fruits and vegetables that have odd shapes or unappealing spots. As a result, many tons of edible food go uneaten and wasted.

Although it’s true that bacteria can cause blemishes on produce, that doesn’t necessarily mean that blemished produce is unsafe to eat. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are usually tasty and healthful. They provide the same—in some cases, more—nutrients as their more attractive cousins.

Several studies have shown some imperfect fruit and vegetables have higher amounts of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that give produce its color and flavor. Phytochemicals may also protect us from cancer and heart disease.

So go ahead and eat ugly produce! It usually costs less because of its appearance. The nutrients it gives you, though, are priceless to your health.

Source: Today’s Dietitian (www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1216p10.shtml)

Animals in the Kitchen

Owning a pet may be great for your mental health, but pets may also carry harmful germs through their fur, feces, and saliva. The risk of getting a foodborne illness from a pet is low for most people. However, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems have an increased risk.

If you cannot keep pets entirely out of your kitchen, here are ways to guard the safety of your food:

  • Always wash your hands after touching your pet and before handling food.
  • Clean your pet’s paws after it plays outside or has been in the litter box before entering the kitchen.
  • Keep your pet off of counters and tables.
  • Don’t eat or drink while playing with animals.

We all love our pets, but it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with them.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits)

Fair Food Safety

There is nothing more fun than attending a summer fair or celebration with your family. There are so many things to see, do, and enjoy—especially the food. To make safe food choices and reduce the chances of you or a family member getting food poisoning, here are some food safety tips:

  • Before choosing a food vendor, look at their workstations and note if they are clean and tidy. Does the vendor wear/use disposable gloves when preparing food?
  • Are there handwashing sinks/stations for the vendor/employees?
  • Are gloves or tongs used to serve food to customers?
  • If the vendor provides single service utensils, are they individually wrapped? (Unwrapped eating utensils have the potential for contamination from dirt, air, flies, and even customers.)
  • Be sure your hot food is hot and cold food is cold. If not, tell the vendor.
  • Choose a clean place to sit and eat your meal.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or hand wipes in case it is difficult to wash your hands.

Following these tips will keep you on your way to a safe and happy summertime event!

Source: Centers for Disease Control

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