Monday, October 1, 2012

Avoid Killing Yourself And Your Loved Ones - Basic Food Safety For Emergencies And Every Day

I hope you read my recent post on a new contaminated food recall. The main contaminated food was peanut butter, but it also included almond butter, tahini (sesame seeds), and other nuts and products such as ice cream and baked goods made with them.

When I was looking for more information and links for you, it occurred to me that some of you may need to learn about basic food safety information and others could use a brush up on it. During emergencies it is easy to neglect basic food safety. The last thing you need during an emergency is to get sick from food poisoning.

A government site told us that one out of every six Americans gets food poisoning every year. That is a lot. We really need to do better than that. For readers in other countries, you get food poisoning also. You will have to find your own statistics about how many of you get it, however.

"This problem is more serious than many people realize. Food poisoning not only sends more than 100,000 Americans to the hospital each year – it can also have long-term health consequences."

The quote above comes from They say that only four easy steps will help keep you safe from food poisoning at home.

The four steps are:

  1. Clean
  2. Separate
  3. Cook
  4. Chill
Sorry, but this is going to be a long post. I don't wish to split it. I just finished this thing and am not techy enough to fight with the formatting at the end. That means I wrap it up here.  

My further apologies for not enlarging the chart at the end of this. It will not fit in the blog space that way. I know this is more like a book than my usual post, but deal with it. Most of you do not persist with my posts when I break them up. I think this is too important to let you do that without trying everything I can to prevent it. So we are going to explain about each of the four steps separately now.


Wash hands the right way—for 20 seconds with soap and running water.

Washing your hands the right way can stop the spread of illness-causing bacteria.
Here’s how to do it:
  • Wet your hands with warm or cold running water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Bacteria can hide out here too!
  • Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
And when to do it:
  • Before eating food.
  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
  • After handling uncooked eggs, or raw meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After touching an animal or animal waste.
  • After touching garbage.
  • After using the toilet.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use.

    Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:

    • Use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
    • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
    • As an extra precaution, you can use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils.
    • Wash fruits and veggies—but not meat, poultry, or eggs!

      Did you know that—even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies—it’s important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them?
      Here’s how to wash all your produce effectively…
      1. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
      2. Rinse produce under running water. Don’t use soap, detergent, bleach, or commercial produce washes.
      3. Scrub firm produce—like melons or cucumbers—with a clean produce brush.
      4. Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth towel… and you’re done.
      5. The good news? Bagged produce marked “pre-washed” is safe to use without further washing.
      Why not wash meat, poultry, and eggs?
      Washing raw meat and poultry can actually help bacteria spread, because their juices may splash onto (and contaminate!) your sink and countertops.
      All commercial eggs are washed before sale. Any extra handling of the eggs, such as washing, may actually increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.

      I am not enthused about the last bit about not washing meat, poultry and eggs. This is because every year, when I check for the latest government advice on how to prepare your turkey safely so you don't share food poisoning for the holiday, they say to wash your turkey before you cook it. I always washed the expletive deleted out of mine and then disinfected the sink and anything else the turkey or its juices touched.

      They always have a hot line or several of them about tips for turkey preparation during the holidays. I will publish it when I find out what it is this year. Then you get to decide which government agency you want to pay attention to.


Don’t cross-contaminate

Why it matters

Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
But which foods need to be kept separate, and how?

Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

cutting meat on a cuttingboard Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

Placing ready-to-eat food on a surface that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs can spread bacteria and make you sick. But stopping cross-contamination is simple.

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce, and one for raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
  • Before using them again, thoroughly wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
  • Once a cutting board gets excessively worn or develops hard-to-clean grooves, consider replacing it.

That last bullet of information is probably talking about plastic cutting boards. Glass and wooden ones may be safer according to some things I have read. Wood gives off something that has a natural antibacterial effect and it works better if you clean it with ammonia after cutting meat on it. Glass is not as subject to surface wear and contamination in scratches on its surface. 

If wooden cutting boards became extremely worn, I have sanded them down and oiled them again. Nobody told me to do this, but I am not dead yet. Make up your own mind. I couldn't afford a new cutting board at the time.

Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery.

Make sure you aren’t contaminating foods in your grocery bag by:
  • Separating raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart.
  • At the checkout, place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in plastic bags to keep their juices from dripping on other foods.
I don't have to worry about anything but eggs, mentioned above because of being a vegetarian. I think you should also be careful in the same way about any dairy.

Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

Bacteria can spread inside your fridge if the juices of raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs drip onto ready-to-eat foods. But stopping this contamination is simple…
  • Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping or leaking onto other foods. If you’re not planning to use these foods within a few days, freeze them instead.
  • Keep eggs in their original carton and store them in the main compartment of the refrigerator—not in the door.

Cook to the right temperature

Why it matters

Did you know that the bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the “Danger Zone” between 40˚ and 140˚ Fahrenheit?
And while many people think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without following a few important but simple steps

Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

 using a meat thermometer Use a food thermometer.

Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color and texture alone won’t tell you whether your food is done. Instead, use a food thermometer to be sure.

 food cooking in a crockpot Keep food hot after cooking (at 140 ˚F or above).

The possibility of bacterial growth actually increases as food cools after cooking because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. But you can keep your food above the safe temperature of 140˚F by using a heat source like a chafing dish, warming tray, or slow cooker.
 cooking food in a microwave

Microwave food thoroughly (to 165 ˚F).

To make sure harmful bacteria have been killed in your foods, it’s important to microwave them to 165˚ or higher. Here’s how:
  • When you microwave, stir your food in the middle of heating.
    • If the food label says, “Let stand for x minutes after cooking,” don’t skimp on the standing time. Letting your microwaved food sit for a few minutes actually helps your food cook more completely by allowing colder areas of food time to absorb heat from hotter areas of food. That extra minute or two could mean the difference between a delicious meal and food poisoning. (I took an actual microwave cooking class that called this wait "standing time". I was told that standing time is necessary because microwaves start from the inside of your food and work their way through to the outside of the food. If you do not allow standing time, you will have microwaves bouncing around inside of you cooking your insides. This was a long time ago, and perhaps theory has changed. I do not like the idea of what microwaving my insides might do, so I always allow standing time. It was suggested that the standing time be half the length of the cooking time.)
  • After waiting a few minutes, check the food with a food thermometer to make sure it is 165˚F or above.


Refrigerate promptly

Why it matters

Did you know that illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them? (And if the temperature is 90 ˚F or higher during the summer, cut that time down to one hour!)
But by refrigerating foods promptly and properly, you can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home.

Follow these top tips to keep your family safe

plastic containers of food Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.

Cold temperatures slow the growth of illness causing bacteria. So it’s important to chill food promptly and properly. Here’s how:
  • Make sure your fridge and freezer are cooled to the right temperature. Your fridge should be between 40 ˚F and 32 ˚F, and your freezer should be 0 ˚F or below.
  • Pack your refrigerator with care. To properly chill food (and slow bacteria growth), cold air must be allowed to circulate in your fridge. For this reason, it’s important not to over-stuff your fridge.
  • Get perishable foods into the fridge or freezer within two hours. In the summer months, cut this time down to one hour.
  • Remember to store leftovers within two hours as well. By dividing leftovers into several clean, shallow containers, you’ll allow them to chill faster.

marinating meat Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter.

Many people are surprised at this tip. But since bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature, thawing or marinating foods on the counter is one of the riskiest things you can do when preparing food for your family.
To thaw food safely, choose one of these options:
  • Thaw in the refrigerator. This is the safest way to thaw meat, poultry, and seafood. Simply take the food out of the freezer and place it on a plate or pan that can catch any juices that may leak. Normally, it should be ready to use the next day.
  • Thaw in cold water. For faster thawing, you can put the frozen package in a watertight plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes. Note: If you thaw this way, be sure to cook the food immediately.
  • Thaw in the microwave. Faster thawing can also be accomplished in the microwave. Simply follow instructions in your owner’s manual for thawing. As with thawing in cold water, food thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Cook without thawing. If you don’t have enough time to thaw food, just remember, it is safe to cook foods from a frozen state—but your cooking time will be approximately 50% longer than fully thawed meat or poultry.
To marinate food safely, always marinate it in the refrigerator.

Know when to throw food out.

You can’t tell just by looking or smelling whether harmful bacteria has started growing in your leftovers or refrigerated foods.
Be sure you throw food out before harmful bacteria grow by checking our Safe Storage Times chart.

Here is the aforementioned Safe Storage Times Chart:

Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer

These short but safe time limits for home-refrigerated foods will keep them from spoiling or becoming dangerous to eat. The guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.
For storage times for eggs and foods made with eggs, see Egg Storage Chart.
CategoryFoodRefrigerator(40 °F or below)Freezer(0 °F or below)
SaladsEgg, chicken, ham, tuna & macaroni salads3 to 5 daysDoes not freeze well
Hot dogsopened package1 week1 to 2 months
unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Luncheon meatopened package or deli sliced3 to 5 days1 to 2 months
unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Bacon & SausageBacon7 days1 month
Sausage, raw — from chicken, turkey, pork, beef1 to 2 days1 to 2 months
Hamburger & Other Ground MeatsHamburger, ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, & mixtures of them1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb & PorkSteaks3 to 5 days6 to 12 months
Chops3 to 5 days4 to 6 months
Roasts3 to 5 days4 to 12 months
Fresh PoultryChicken or turkey, whole1 to 2 days1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces1 to 2 days9 months
Soups & StewsVegetable or meat added3 to 4 days2 to 3 months
LeftoversCooked meat or poultry3 to 4 days2 to 6 months
Chicken nuggets or patties3 to 4 days1 to 3 months
Pizza3 to 4 days1 to 2 months


  1. Hey! I am curious if you have a lot of visitors of your blogging resource?