The Holiday Buffet

holiday Holiday buffets are a popular way to entertain, but these kinds of food service, where foods are left out for long periods of time, can be a health hazard.

Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline to help you have a safe holiday party.

Safe Food Handling
Always serve food on clean plates — not those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Otherwise, bacteria which may have been present in raw meat juices can cross contaminate the food to be served.

Cook Thoroughly
If you are cooking holiday foods ahead of time for your party, be sure to cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Use Shallow Containers to Store Holiday Foods
Divide holiday cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 °F. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250 °F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way foods will be held at a safe temperature for a longer period of time. REPLACE empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.

The Two-Hour Rule for Holiday Buffets
Holiday foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there two hours or more.

Keep Hot Foods HOT And Cold Foods COLD
Hot foods should be held at 140 °F or warmer. On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40 °F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.

Foodborne Bacteria
Bacteria are everywhere but a few types especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people’s hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Prevention is safe food handling.

If illness occurs, however, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.

Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria are found on our skin, in infected cuts and pimples, and in our noses and throats. They are spread by improper food handling. Prevention includes washing hands and utensils before preparing and handling foods and not letting prepared foods — particularly cooked and cured meats and cheese and meat salads — sit at room temperature more than two hours. Thorough cooking destroys “staph” bacteria but staphylococcal enterotoxin is resistant to heat, refrigeration and freezing.

Clostridium perfringens
Perfringens” is called the “cafeteria germ” because it may be found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods of time on inadequately maintained steam tables or at room temperature. Prevention is to divide large portions of cooked foods such as beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews and casseroles into smaller portions for serving and cooling. Keep cooked foods hot or cold, not lukewarm.

Listeria monocytogenes
Because Listeria bacteria multiply, although slowly, at refrigeration temperatures, these bacteria can be found in cold foods typically served on buffets. To avoid serving foods containing Listeria, follow “keep refrigerated” label directions and carefully observe “sell by” and “use by” dates on processed products, and thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before consumption.

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What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.

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Eat Out: Eat Right

eat outMost Americans love to eat out! Many of us eat out, often at fast food establishments, a few times a week.

The American Dietetic Association (eatright.org) is a good source of information on how to eat healthy when you eat out. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • If you are going to begin the day by eating out, build a better breakfast sandwich by replacing sausage or bacon with Canadian ham or regular ham and have it on whole grain toast, or bagel or English Muffin.
  • If you are going to eat out at a sandwich shop, choose lean beef, ham, turkey or chicken on whole grain bread. Use mustard, ketchup, salsa or low fat spreads. in place of fries or chips, choose a side salad or fruit, or if you must have fries, share with someone else.
  • If you are at a salad bar, pile on the leafy greens, then choose carrots, peppers and other fresh veggies. Go lightly on choosing mayonnaise-based salads and high-fat toppings.
  • Eating in a restaurant? Eat your low calorie food first, filling up on salad and soup followed by a light main course. Have all sauces and dressing on the side, for dipping, not pouring. Order one dessert and forks  for sharing with companions.
  • Avoid all you can eat buffet and unlimited salad bars if you know you tend eat too much at these venues.
  • Take size into consideration when ordering muffins, bagels, croissants and biscuits. Jumbo sizes mean jumbo calories and lots more fat.
  • Does your eat out mean grabbing dinner at the hot table in the supermarket or the deli section? If so, choose rotisserie chicken, salad in a bag and fresh bread. Another good choice-lean roast beef, onion rolls potato salad and fresh fruit.

If your eat out means eating at your desk at work, keep single serving packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, soup, or tuna in your desk.

 

 

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It’s Time to get Physical…Outdoors!

timeIt’s time to put the shovels away. It’s time to check and see if you light-weight clothes still fit, and what clothes need to be replaced.

Finally, after a long, hard winter, it is time to get outside and get physical !

Whatever you are planning to do, be it running, walking, playing tennis, biking, gardening or home repairs you’ll need some fuel to keep you going!

Take the time to review some great snacks suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC:

  • Fresh veggies like carrots and celery sticks
  • Snack-sized boxes of raisins
  • Pretzels
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Crackers — try graham crackers, animal crackers, or saltines
  • Bagels
  • Fig bars
  • Fruit juice boxes (make sure you choose 100% pure fruit juice, or for an added boost, try orange juice with added calcium)
  • Small packages of trail mix
  • Fresh fruits such as bananas, oranges, grapes (try freezing your grapes for a new taste sensation!), and berries

No matter what type of physical activity you do, you should always be sure to drink plenty of water — before you start, during the activity, and after you’re done, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

What you are eating and drinking will be a great example for your children. When it is time for them to grab a snack, they will be less likely to want sugary drinks, candy and cookies as snacks following a physical activity.

 

 

 

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Serving Safe Summer Foods

With summer not far off, most of us think about serving more quick and easy suppers. Many of us foodschoose to serve more ready to eat foods.

The following article, which recently appeared in on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page,  is about protecting your family from a bacteria called Listeria. This bacteria has been linked to a number of ready to eat foods.

If you eat food contaminated with Listeria, you could get so sick that you have to be hospitalized. And for certain vulnerable people, the illness could be far worse.

Contaminated food can bring Listeria into the home. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria germs can grow and spread in the refrigerator. So if you unknowingly refrigerate Listeria-contaminated food, the germs not only multiply at the cool temperature, they could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there, increasing the likelihood that you and your family will become sick.

Those most at risk for listeriosis—the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes—include pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

What foods could be contaminated?

Listeria has been linked to a variety of ready-to-eat foods, including deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared deli-salads. A draft study released May 10, 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) evaluates the risk of listeriosis associated with foods prepared in retail delis. There are many steps that deli operators and processing establishments that supply food to delis can follow to reduce the risk of listeriosis.

FDA and FSIS recommend that consumers at risk for developing listeriosis—including older adults, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems—reheat hot dogs and lunch meats until steaming hot.

At-risk consumers are also advised to avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses (such as feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined cheeses, “queso blanco,” “queso fresco” or Panela), unless they are made with pasteurized milk.

And Listeria can sometimes be found in other foods. In 2011, a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis tied to contaminated cantaloupes caused illnesses and deaths.

Donald Zink, Ph.D, senior science advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says FDA is aware of cases of foodborne illness caused by bacteria that can live in the kitchen and spread to foods that had not been contaminated.

Consumers are advised to wash all fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you plan to peel the produce first. Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.

To further protect yourself and your family from Listeria, follow these steps:

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Keep Refrigerated Foods Cold

Chilling food properly is an important way of reducing risk of Listeria infection. Although Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, it grows more slowly at refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees F or less.

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees F or lower.
  • Wrap or cover foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil or put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make certain foods do not leak juices onto other foods.
  • Place an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically.  Adjust the refrigerator temperature control, if necessary, to keep foods as cold as possible without causing them to freeze. Place a second thermometer in the freezer to check the temperature there.
  • Use precooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria has to grow.

“If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it’s best to throw them out after three days, just to be sure,” says Zink. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

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Clean Refrigerator Regularly

Listeria can contaminate other food through spills in the refrigerator.

  • Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away—especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry. Consider using paper towels to avoid transferring germs from a cloth towel.
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with warm water and liquid soap, then rinse. As an added measure of caution, you can sanitize your refrigerator monthly using the same procedures described below for kitchen surfaces.

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Clean Hands and Kitchen Surfaces Often

Listeria can spread from one surface to another.

  • Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. As an added precaution you should sanitize clean surfaces by using any of the kitchen surface sanitizer products available from grocery stores, being careful to follow label directions.

You can make your own sanitizer by combining 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach to one 1 quart of water, flooding the surface and letting it stand for 10 minutes.  Then rinse with clean water.  Let surfaces air dry or pat them dry with fresh paper towels.  Bleach solutions get less effective with time, so discard unused portions daily.

  • A cutting board should be washed with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher.
  • Dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • It’s also important, to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

 

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