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.
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.
Eat Right, www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/separate/reusable-grocery-tote-safety University of Minnesota, extension.umn.edu/farmers-markets/shopping-farmers-markets
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.
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.
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!
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2018 Food and Health Survey reported consumer confusion about food and nutrition. Eighty percent of survey respondents stated they have come across conflicting information about food and nutrition, and 59% state the conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.
It is no wonder consumers are confused. There is an explosion of nutrition and food safety information readily available, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction. One reliable source is the IFIC Foundation. The IFIC Foundation’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good. The public nonprofit organization partners with credible professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to advance the public understanding of key issues.
Topics recently explored on the IFIC Foundation’s website and blog include the following:
What’s the Carnivore Diet?
Google Can’t Diagnose Your Food Allergy
Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame
Snacking Series: Do Snacks Lead to Weight Gain?
Food Advocates Communicating Through Science (FACTS) is a global network of the IFIC Foundation that can help consumers understand the science behind the myths and truth related to food, nutrition, and food safety.
Sheet pan meals are a popular trend for those on a busy schedule. These meals often contain a protein source for the main dish and two vegetables for sides—cooked together on a single sheet pan in the oven. Cooking multiple menu items in one pan appeals to those looking for recipes that require little preparation and use minimal dishes. Sheet pan meals can be very convenient and nutritious. However, it is important to keep food safety in mind. Follow these tips for a safe sheet pan meal:
Wash the vegetables thoroughly before cooking. This can prevent the introduction of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Use separate utensils and cutting boards for produce and raw meats.
Cook the protein source to the correct internal temperature:
The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable foods: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When you buy hot dogs, refrigerate or freeze them promptly. Never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or higher.
Although hot dogs are fully cooked, those at higher risk for foodborne illness—including pregnant women, preschoolers, older adults, and anyone with a weakened immune system—should reheat hot dogs until steaming hot because of the risk of listeriosis. Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes listeriosis, may also be found in other foods like luncheon meat, cold cuts, soft cheese, and unpasteurized milk. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headaches, backache, upset stomach, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It may also cause miscarriages. Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms. If you have Listeriosis, your provider can treat you.