Staying Healthy with Safe Food
By Marni Sumbal
Grilled fish, veggie burgers, potato salad and cantaloupe. Grab the Frisbee and fire-up the grill - the summer is a perfect time for an appetizing outdoor feast.
With an estimated 48-million* cases of foodborne illness each year in the United States, it’s imperative that you practice safe food handling skills in and outside the kitchen (USDA, 2011). Because some individuals are at a greater risk for foodborne illness than others (ex. infants, the elderly, pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system, young children) and the symptoms and onset may vary, it’s important to note that foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following four simple steps when preparing and handling food in your own home.
1) Clean – Bacteria love the nooks and crannies in your kitchen. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm running water before and after handling food, especially after handling raw animal protein. Also, be mindful of other items in your kitchen that you may contaminate when preparing raw meat (ex. handle of refrigerator/pantry, answering your phone, etc.). Be sure to wash countertops, cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water, after each use. Counter surfaces and cutting boards can be disinfected by mixing one teaspoon liquid bleach per quart of water (let stand for 10 minutes and rinse with clean water). Bleach solutions will become less effective over time so discard your homemade solutions after seven days. Vegetarians, you are not immune to foodborne illnesses. Because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside of fresh fruits and veggies (ex. pineapple, watermelon), always rinse produce under running water and dry with a paper towel. Although bagged produce marked “pre-washed” is safe to use without additional washing, it is recommended to lightly wash all produce, even those marked “Organic.”
2) Don’t cross-contaminate – While the ready-to-eat food may be properly cooked and prepared, bacteria love to travel. It is advised to use a separate cutting board for raw meat, seafood and poultry and another for fresh produce. Likewise, separate plates and utensils should be used for raw foods. Although wood cutting boards are stylish, they are very porous and make for a happy home for bacteria. It is recommended to use a wood cutting board for fresh bread, a large plastic cutting board (dishwasher safe) for raw animal protein and a few small to medium cutting boards for fresh produce. Because cutting boards become difficult to clean overtime, it is recommended to replace used cutting boards at least two to three times a year. Keep raw and marinating animal protein at the bottom of the refrigerator, in a container or sealed plastic bag, to prevent the juices from dripping onto other foods.
3) Cook – Bacteria thrive on warm, moist, protein-rich foods that are neutral or low in pH (acid). Because bacteria need both food and water to grow, recognize the “Danger Zone” of 40 and 140 degrees, where bacteria multiply the quickest. Do not rely on looks to determine whether or not a food is done cooking. Always use a food thermometer. Although we like our hot food hot and our cold food cold, bacterial growth increases as a food cools. Keep your hot food above 140 degrees by using a warming tray or a chafing dish and promptly store cold food in the refrigerator or keep on ice when serving. Microwavable food and reheated food should be heated to 165 degrees, which includes the standing time for additional heating in frozen meals (which occurs after you remove your food from the microwave).
Most commonly used cooking temperatures:
-Raw beef, lamb, pork, veal steaks, chops and fish– minimum internal temp of 145 degrees
-Raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal, ham, stuffing and eggs - minimum internal temp of 160 degrees
-Poultry - minimum internal temp of 165 degrees
(Never defrost or marinate raw animal protein at room temperature!)
4) Chill – Perishable foods and leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours after cooing in order to slow the growth of bacteria. Be sure your refrigerator is kept between 32 degrees and 40 degrees and the freezer is 0 degrees or below. In order to preserve the quality and temperature of other foods, don’t place hot food immediately into the refrigerator. Rather, place the food into shallow, sealed containers and let food cool until it is comfortable to touch prior to storing. Avoid crowding your refrigerator and be sure to date and label your food to reduce the possibility of harmful bacterial growth. Egg, chicken, tuna and macaroni salads, as well as opened packaged or deli sliced luncheon meat, should be discarded after three to five days. Ground meats and fresh whole poultry should be discarded after two days. Leftover pizza and soups and stews can last up to four days. Many items can be stored in the freezer for several months, as freezing delays the growth of bacteria but does not prevent its growth. Always label, date and properly store/package your foods prior to freezing.
United States Department of Agriculture (2011). Safe food handling. How temperatures
affect food. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved July 14h, 2011, from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/How_Temperatures_Affect_Food/index.ap.
United States Department of Agriculture (n.d.). Foodborne illness: What consumers
need to now. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved July 14th, 2011, from
United States Department of Agriculture (n.d.). Keep food safe. Foodsafety.gov.
Retrieved July 14h, 2011, from
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD
Marni is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology. She is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach, a 4x Ironman finisher and is an Oakley Women ambassador. Marni is currently training for the 2011 Ironman World Championship. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to IronGirl.com, LAVA online and USAT online.
Any questions, Email firstname.lastname@example.org visit trimarni.blogspot.com