September is National Food Safety Education Month. I get the opportunity to teach ServSafe Food Safety classes for food service managers in Coshocton County and the surrounding area. One part of the three-day workshop is learning about the microorganisms that cause foodborne illness (food poisoning) when they contaminate food.
According to the CDC, salmonella is responsible for more foodborne illnesses in the United States than any other bacteria. Though salmonella can be found in a variety of foods, chicken is a major source of these illnesses. Ground beef has also been linked to large salmonella outbreaks in recent years.
I have heard people talk about the food safety dangers of potato salad or chicken salad or macaroni salad because of the infamous mayonnaise. Does it surprise you to learn that it is not really the mayo? Most times it is a combination of factors including the protein or carbohydrate source in these salads (the potatoes or the chicken or the pasta) that provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Really, just about any picnic food can support disease-causing bacteria given the right circumstances.
The CDC is working along the food chain to prevent salmonella illnesses associated with chicken and ground beef. From the producer to the consumer, we all have a role to play in preventing foodborne illness. When you cook chicken or ground beef, follow the four steps to food safety to help protect you and your family from Salmonella and other germs.
Clean: Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces often when you cook. Be sure to wash dish cloths often on hot setting in your washing machine. Don’t wash meat, poultry, eggs or seafood to avoid spreading harmful germs around your kitchen. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water without soap, bleach or commercial produce washes. Scrub firm produce like melons or cucumbers with a clean produce brush.
Separate: Raw meat, chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs can spread germs. Separate them from cooked food and fresh produce. It is a good idea to have special section in your refrigerator that you dedicate to raw items, preferably on the lowest shelf to prevent dripping onto lower foods. Have different cutting boards that you use only for produce or only for raw meat.
Cook: Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to an internal temperature that kills germs. This can be as fancy and expensive or plain and inexpensive as you want. As long as it works and you use it, that is all that matters. Current temperature recommendations include:
- 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats, such as beef and pork
- 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
- 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb (then let rest for three minutes before carving or eating)
Chill: Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers within two hours, or within one hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (like a summer picnic). We will still have plenty more hot days before autumn truly arrives. It is a good practice to take insulated bags to the grocery store to keep cold items at least a little cooler as you travel home to your refrigerator. If you are wondering how long to keep certain foods in your fridge, check out the Cold Food Storage Chart at foodsafety.gov.
Following these steps in your home kitchen will reduce the risk of foodborne illness from the foods that you eat.
Today I’ll leave you with this quote from Walt Disney: “The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Emily Marrison is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 740-622-2265.