Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning When Eating Out

Hamburger and chips
  • Check inspection scores. Check a restaurant’s score on the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals website, iowa.safefoodinspection.com. Inspections are a “snapshot” of the day and time of the inspection.
  • Look for certificates that show kitchen managers have completed food safety training.Refrigerate your leftovers quickly.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of when the food was prepared (or 1 hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, like in a hot car or at a picnic). Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Throw them out after that time.

Source: CDC Food Safety and Eating Out, www.cdc.gov

For a Safe Plate, Do Not Cross-Contaminate

Cutting vegetables on a cutting board

September is Food Safety Education Month. This year the focus is preventing cross contamination.

  1. Separate meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in the grocery cart and refrigerator.
  2. Raw chicken does not need to be washed in either water or vinegar before cooking. It is ready to cook. Washing raw poultry can splash germs around the sink and kitchen.
  3. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Use a different cutting board for bread, vegetables, and fruits.
  4. If you only have one cutting board, cut produce, bread, and other ready-to-eat foods first, then wash the cutting board with soap and hot water before cutting raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
    • The cutting board should always be washed with soap and hot water between each different food item.
    • Wash hands after handling meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
  5. Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with soap and hot water after preparing meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
  6. Use separate plates and utensils for raw meat, poultry, and seafood as well as cooked meat, poultry, and seafood.

Understanding Food Date Labeling

Person holding bottle of milk

Almost all food has a food date label. The product date indicates food quality, appearance, and flavor, not food safety. Some unopened foods may be safe to eat past their product date if properly handled and stored at home. Below are some dates on a food product and what they mean.

  • “Best If Used By/Before” is how long the product will remain at its best quality while unopened. Foods not showing spoilage may be purchased, donated, and consumed beyond the date. (For donation information, contact your local food bank or use HS 142C Healthy Food Pantry Donation Guide, store.extension.iastate.edu/product/16109.)
  • “Use By” is the last date recommended for using a product at peak quality and is a required safety date for infant formula. Do not use infant formula beyond this date due to nutrient loss.
  • “Sell By” is the last day stores can display an item for sale while at peak quality.

Source:
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, go.iastate.edu/JSL1NT

Handling Leftovers and Food Safety

Leftovers in containers in refrigerator

Often when we cook at home or eat in a restaurant, we have leftovers. To ensure that leftovers are safe to eat, make sure the food is cooked to a safe temperature and stored correctly. Safe handling of leftovers is important to reduce foodborne illness. Use these tips to store leftovers:

  • Freezing. Almost any food can be frozen. Freezing leftovers is easy to do and simplifies meal planning and preparation. If you know you will be short on time next week, freezing your favorite recipe this week is a good option.
  • Wrap leftovers well. You can wrap food in freezer paper; place in freezer bags, making sure to let all the air out; or place in freezer-safe storage containers. This helps keep bacteria out and preserve moisture.
  • Label and date. Label and date all leftovers so you know what is in the package and how long you can safely store it before throwing it away.
  • Storage. Leftovers should be eaten, frozen, or thrown away after four days. If frozen, use leftovers within three to four months for the best quality.
  • Thaw. Safe ways to thaw leftovers include the refrigerator, cold water, and the microwave oven.
  • Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the microwave to 165°F in a microwave safe container and add liquid if needed. Stir the food halfway through the reheating process. Check the temperature of the food in several places before serving it as dense food needs more time to cook.

For more information watch How to Freeze Leftovers, go.iastate.edu/VT3C71, or download the How to Freeze Leftovers Handout, go.iastate.edu/VA6EY2.

Refrigerator Tetris—Where should the food go?

Storing food correctly helps prevent food waste. The refrigerator is the most important kitchen appliance for keeping food safe. Refrigerators should be kept at 40°F or below while the freezer needs to be set at 0°F or below.

Where food is stored in the refrigerator is just as important as keeping it at the correct temperature.

  • Door shelves are good for storing condiments and salad dressings since that is the warmest part of the refrigerator. Do not store eggs or milk here.
  • Sealed crisper drawers provide an optimal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Vegetables prefer higher humidity and fruits lower humidity, so adjust drawer controls accordingly. This will help the produce last longer.
  • Middle shelves are good places to put ready-to-eat foods like salads, desserts, or leftovers.
  • Lowest shelf is where you should place raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Place them in a sealed container or wrapped securely to prevent meat juices from dripping and contaminating other foods.

Source: USDA, www.fsis.usda.gov.

Spring Clean Your Refrigerator

Man spraying cleaning fluid on refrigerator shelves

A well-organized refrigerator helps reduce food waste and save money. You should aim to deep clean your refrigerator every three to four months. Follow these steps to clean and organize your refrigerator:

  1. Remove everything. Throw out food that has spoiled or expired and leftovers more than four days old.
  2. Put perishables, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and eggs, in a cooler with ice or ice packs to keep cold while cleaning the refrigerator.
  3. Wash all shelves, drawers, and walls with hot soapy water. Rinse with clean, hot water and let air dry. Replace drawers and shelves once they are dry.
  4. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40ºF or below, so your food is safe to eat.
  5. Group similar foods together as you put them back in the refrigerator. Label and date all foods.
    • Crisper drawers: Keep fruits and vegetables.
    • Deli drawers: Store deli meats and cheeses.
    • Lowest shelf: Place raw meats on a plate, so they do not drip onto other foods.
    • Back of refrigerator: Keep milk and eggs, so they stay cold.
    • Door: Store sauces and condiments.
  6. Once a year, clean the back and bottom of the fridge. This helps it to operate efficiently.

For more information, watch the Organize Your Fridge video, bit.ly/3CT20lS, on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.

Food Safety Mythbusters

Blocks saying Facts and Myths

We all do our best to serve our families food that’s safe and healthy. However, do you know all you should know? A few food safety practices that many people believe and follow are actually myths.

Myth: I don’t need to wash fruits or vegetables if I'm going to peel them.

Fact: Because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind when you’re cutting to the inside of your fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it.

Myth: To get rid of any bacteria on my meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse off the juices with water first.

Fact: Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase your chance of foodborne illness by splashing juices and any bacteria they might contain onto your sink and counters. If you choose to rinse for cultural reasons, make sure to clean and disinfect the sink and counters immediately afterward.

Myth: It is OK to wash bagged greens if I want to. There’s no harm!

Fact: Rinsing leafy greens that are ready to eat (those labeled “washed,” “triple washed,” or “ready to eat”) will not enhance safety. In fact, it could increase the risk for cross-contamination. This means harmful bacteria from your hands or kitchen surfaces could find their way onto the greens while washing them.

Source: Home Food Safety Mythbusters, fightbac.org

Safe Food at Potlucks

Table of various foods

Potluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. They are also linked with the spread of foodborne illness. Follow these tips to keep food safe:

  • If you or someone in your home has “stomach flu” or symptoms of a foodborne illness, don’t prepare food.
  • Don’t mix salads, such as potato or a tossed lettuce salad, with your bare hands. Use utensils or wear gloves instead.
  • To keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower), remove items from the refrigerator just before leaving home and put them in a cooler with ice or a freezer gel pack. Remove hot food items from the oven or cooktop and place in containers such as insulated bags to keep foods hot (140°F or above).
  • To prevent cross-contamination, cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it and don’t transport food with animals in your car.

Food Safety Tips for Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Roast turkey
  1. Thaw your turkey safely: Plan ahead, since thawing may take days in the refrigerator. Do NOT thaw it on the counter, in a bathtub, on the porch, or in the garage.
  2. Handle your turkey safely: Before touching the turkey, wash your hands for 20 seconds. Do not wash or rinse the turkey. This may spread poultry juice to other foods and lead to foodborne illness. Use a clean cutting board. Wash the board with warm soapy water after use and before preparing the next item.
  3. Cook your turkey safely: Set oven temperature to at least 325°F. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Find cooking times at USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, bit.ly/3kZeP6D. Use a food thermometer to check in at least two of the thickest parts of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. After cooking, the turkey should rest for 20 minutes to let juices settle.
  4. Chill your turkey safely: Divide leftovers into small portions and refrigerate or freeze within two hours after cooking. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3–4 days and frozen cooked turkey in 2–6 months for best quality. For more Thanksgiving-friendly food safety tips, visit FoodSafety. gov, bit.ly/3A55oqt.

Source: FoodSafety.gov, bit.ly/3A55oqt.

Vegetable Safety Tips

Vegetables are part of a healthy diet. However, they can also be a source of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Use these food safety tips to protect yourself and your family.

Washing carrots in sink
  1. Always wash hands with soap and water before you start to prepare vegetables.
  2. Use clean equipment, including cutting board and knives.
  3. Wash all produce even if the skin will be peeled. If a produce item is labeled ready to eat, washing is not recommended and could increase risk of illness.
  4. Wash produce under running water. A scrub brush can help in cleaning produce. Soap and vegetable rinses are not necessary. If soaking is required to loosen dirt, make sure to finish by rinsing under cool or warm running water.
  5. Store any washed produce in the refrigerator.

Source: Fresh Vegetable Guide, store.extension.iastate.edu/product/12599

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