Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator

refrigerator

September is National Food Safety Education Month and consumers need to know that myths about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:
www.fightbac.org/food-safety-education/home-food-safety-mythbusters/

 

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Halloween Food Safety Tips

food

The Partnership for Food Safety Education (http://fightbac.org) offers the following tips for preventing foodbourne bacteria this Halloween:

  • Keep all perishable food chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, cut fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frosting. Cold temperatures help keep most bacteria from multiplying.
  • To keep store-bought party trays cold, fill lids with ice and place trays on top.  Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
  • Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let platters of food sit out for too long.  Don’t leave perishable goodies out for more than two hours at room temperature (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

  • When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs.
  • Beware of  unpasteurized juice or cider that can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve only pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
  • Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after eating to help prevent foodborne illness.
  • Bobbing for Apples – Try a new spin on bobbing for apples. Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper.  Write activities for kids to do on each apple, such as “say ABCs” or “do 5 jumping jacks”. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string or create a fishing pole with a dowel rod, magnet and yarn.  Let the children take turn “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple.
  •  Give children a fresh apple for participating in your food safe version of bobbing for apples.

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Keeping Tailgating Safe…Tips from NSF International

NSF International wants Americans to enjoy tailgating before and after the game.

I’s that time again…time for watching live sports and tailgating.

Here are some tips NSF International wants you to keep in mind when tailgating:

1. Avoid false starts.
Bringing a meat thermometer to the game will help you avoid taking food off the grill too soon and serving it undercooked to your fellow fans. You can’t rely on your eyes alone, so use an NSF International -certified food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature:

  • Whole or ground poultry — 165º F
  • Ground meats (other than poultry) — 160º F
  • Fresh fin fish — 145º F
  • Fresh whole (not ground) pork, beef, veal — 145º F with a three-minute rest time

2. Put your marinade on the sidelines.
When preparing for the big day, keep your marinade in bounds. If you need some for basting, do not use marinade that has come into contact with raw meat. Instead, set aside a small amount of prepared marinade in a separate dish and bring it to the game.

3. Play defense.
NSF International suggests taking defensive measures to protect you and your family against germs by:

  • Bringing wet wipes and hand sanitizer to the game. Make sure you sanitize your hands frequently, especially after putting raw meat on the grill and before eating.
  • Bringing two sets of utensils and dishes if grilling raw meat — one for use with raw foods, the other for cooked foods.
  • Having a plastic bag handy to store dirty utensils or dishes that have touched raw meats to prevent spreading germs in a cooler or in your car after the pre-game meal.

4. Prepare for kickoff.
Cooking outside makes it challenging to avoid cross-contamination. Prepare for the big day by packing three coolers: one for your raw meats, another with your pre-made foods (e.g. potato salad, vegetables) and a third for your beverages. Pack the food at the bottom of the cooler and the ice on top to better insulate the food and keep it at a safe temperature of 40° F. Pack beverages in a separate cooler to avoid frequent opening of the coolers containing perishable foods.

5. Don’t let your food go into overtime.

While it’s tempting to display your game day food spread, it should not be left out for more than two hours (or one hour on days over 90° F) to avoid bacterial growth. Keep perishable foods in coolers to help keep them at safe temperatures as long as you can, and don’t take them out until right before it’s time to eat.

6. Create a neutral zone.

Come prepared with trash bags and create a neutral area to dispose of garbage, empty cans or bottles, and unwanted leftovers. Keep your tailgating area neat and avoid placing glass bottles on the ground where they could be tripped on or broken. When game time is over, throw out your garbage on your way out of the stadium if possible rather than leaving it in your car where bacteria can grow and spread to other surfaces in your car.

“Tailgating is a fun way to celebrate before watching your favorite team play, but can be ruined if you don’t follow the rules of food safety,” said Luptowski. “These tips will keep food poisoning at bay, and help make the pre-game experience a safe and happy one.”

Additional food safety information can be found by visiting NSF International at http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/kit_food_safety.asp or contacting the NSF Consumer Affairs Office at info@nsf.org.

About NSF International: NSF International (www.nsf.org) has been testing and certifying products for safety, health and the environment for nearly 70 years. As an independent, public health and safety organization, NSF international is committed to protecting and improving human health on a global scale. NSF protects families by testing and certifying thousands of consumer goods each year, including kitchen products and appliances, personal care products, dietary and sport supplements, bottled water, toys, pool and spa equipment, water treatment systems, plumbing fixtures and many other products used in homes every day. Look for the NSF mark on products you purchase.

Operating in more than 150 countries, NSF International is committed to protecting families worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. In addition, NSF also and certifies organic food and personal care products through Quality Assurance International (QAI).

 

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Chicken Safety Tips from the USDA

chickenGiven that chicken can be prepared so many ways, and is very economical, it is not surprising that it is America’s most popular poultry.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following information about buying, storing, preparing and serving chicken:es

* It is not necessary to rinse or soak raw chicken to clean it before cooking. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking. Rinsing chicken in the sink might cross-contaminate or spread bacteria throughout the kitchen.

*Fresh or raw chicken should be selected just before checking out of the grocery store. It should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Put chicken packages in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leaking juices which may cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Go right home after food shopping and immediately put the chicken in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within 1-2 days. If you won’t be using the chicken by day 2, freeze it.

*You don’t have to have to re-wrap chicken for freezing. It can be frozen in either its original wrapping or repackaged if you want. If freezing for longer than 2 months, for best quality, you may want to place in a freezer bag or over-wrap with heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper. Either way, once it’s frozen, chicken, and all other raw meats and poultry, are safe indefinitely in the freezer.

*When purchasing cooked chicken, make sure it’s hot upon purchase. Use it within 2 hours or cut it up into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. You can eat the leftovers within 3-4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F, or freeze it. Again, once frozen, the cooked chicken is safe indefinitely in the freezer. For best quality, use within 3-4 months.

*Color is not a good way to determine if cooked chicken is safe to eat. Only by using a food thermometer can you make sure chicken has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. When cooking a whole chicken, you should check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast. And remember, all chicken should be put in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

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Food Safety and Power Outages

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When severe storms or heat waves cause power outages the big food questions are…what to save and when to throw out?

No one wants to lose a freezer and a refrigerator full of food, but spoiled food can cause serious illness.

According to the USDA Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency you need to adhere to the following guidelines:

Frozen Food

  1. A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  2. If the power is going to be out for a long time, buy dry or block ice.
  3. Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.
  4. If you keep an appliance thermometer in your freezer, it’s easy to tell whether food is safe. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer. If it reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen.

 Refrigerated Food

  Keep the fridge closed. It will keep food cold for about 4 hours. Throw away any foods that have been above 40 degrees for longer than two hours.

Words of Caution:

  • Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

  • Always discard any items in the refrigerator and freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
  • Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Another caution-be careful when grocery shopping after a power outage. Freezers and refrigerated foods may also have been affected.

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