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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Always wash hands with soap and water before you start to prepare vegetables.
Use clean equipment, including cutting board and knives.
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.
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.
Using a food thermometer ensures food is cooked to a safe temperature. You can’t rely on the color or texture of a food to determine if it’s safely cooked. For example, ground beef may turn brown before it reaches a temperature that kills germs. A hamburger cooked to 160°F is safe regardless of color. Use a food thermometer to make sure cold food is at or below 40°F and hot food is at or above 140°F.
One in six people get food poisoning—also known as a foodborne illness—every year in the United States. Young children, pregnant women, and older adults have a higher risk of foodborne illness.
Pregnant women are at high risk for listeriosis, a type of foodborne illness that causes miscarriage. Lower the risk by doing the following:
Cook meat, seafood, poultry and eggs thoroughly.
Do not eat cold deli meats or hot dogs. Heat sliced deli meats and hot dogs to 165°F or until steaming.
Avoid raw bean sprouts, unpasteurized milk, or cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Adults ages 60 years and older are at higher risk for foodborne illness because the immune system weakens with age. Likewise, young children are at higher risk because their immune systems haven’t fully developed yet.
Keep everyone safe by following these food safety practices.
Clean: Wash your hands thoroughly. Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces.
Separate: Keep raw meats apart from other foods that may be eaten without cooking, such as fruits and vegetables.
Cook: Cook foods to the correct temperature. Use this handout on food thermometers, bit.ly/2YXooHu, for more information.
Chill: Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than two hours.
To keep leftover soup safe, cool it quickly before putting it in the refrigerator. Place the soup pot in an “ice bath”—a sink filled with ice. Or stir ice cubes into the broth.
Never put a pot of soup directly into the refrigerator. Instead, pour the cooled soup into shallow containers, no more than two inches deep. Shallow containers ensure that foods will chill to 41˚F or below in less than four hours. This will prevent bacterial growth. Store soup in the refrigerator for no more than 3–4 days before eating it or throwing it out. Be sure to reheat cold soup to 165˚F or higher.
To learn how to freeze your homemade soup to make it go farther, visit AnswerLine blog, blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline/2016/10/24/ successfully-freezing-homemade-soup/.
Whether you are back to school or work, packing a meal can have some amazing benefits! Packed meals may be lower in calories and provide more essential nutrients, such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Packing meals also saves money. It is important to remember lunch-box food safety when packing your meal. Follow these tips to prevent being ill when eating on the go.
Keep cold food below 40°F and hot food above 140°F.
Use an insulated lunch box. Some food is safe without a cold source, like whole fruits and vegetables, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter.
For perishable foods, keep foods cold by including at least two cold sources. Use two frozen gel packs or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box, fruit cup, or frozen bottled water. Place cold sources on top and bottom of perishable food items, including lunch meats, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and milk.
Clean your lunch box or bag regularly to avoid bacteria growing on the sides.
Hot summer days bring outside meals with family or friends. Before you head to the next picnic, it’s important to know how to pack the cooler to keep food at a safe temperature.
The day before, clean your cooler(s). If it feels warm, allow it to cool down indoors. Consider filling water bottles or milk cartons to freeze overnight to use as ice blocks in your cooler. Ice blocks stay frozen longer than ice cubes or ice packs.
Load food straight from the fridge to your cooler. Perishable foods like raw meat, poultry, and fish should be stored in watertight containers or zipped plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. The cooler should always be below 40ºF. A thermometer placed in the cooler will help monitor the temperature inside.
Avoid opening the lid, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable food in a separate cooler. When traveling, place the cooler in the car rather than the hot trunk. Once at your destination, keep your cooler in a shaded area rather than in the hot sun. Placing a blanket, rug or quilt over the cooler will also help keep it cool.
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.
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.
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.
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.