Mike Robach, Vice President, Corporate Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs, Cargill
Holiday parties are a staple this time of year. I’m in the midst of planning several for friends and family right now. With my job focused on preventing foodborne illnesses, I believe one of the worst things that could happen to any host is to spark an illness due to unsafe food handling techniques.
Arming yourself with the knowledge to safely prepare your holiday spread doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. In fact, it’s as simple as Cyber Monday shopping—it can be done from your couch, in your pajamas. Tips for safe food handling are at your fingertips when you visit sites such as the CDC or the USDA. You can even find specifics for the food you are preparing, from the safe handling of turkey to beef to eggs.
For quick reference, here are the top five tips I remind my family of every time we are in the kitchen preparing a meal:
1.Clean hands and surfaces often—Wash all utensils and preparation surfaces, including cutting boards, with hot soapy water. Use warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds to wash hands before and after handling food.
2. Separate foods—Don’t transfer bacteria from one food to another. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods that won’t be cooked. Remember to re-wash all surfaces—and your hands—after handling raw foods.
3. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables—Rub firm-skinned produce, like cucumbers and apples, under tap water. Rinse all produce before peeling, as microorganisms on the surface can be easily transferred with a peeler or knife blade. Pat dry with a paper towel.
4. Cook to safe temperatures—A host’s best friend is their thermometer. Use it consistently to ensure foods reach a temperature that kills harmful bacteria that can cause illness. The Partnership for Food Safety Education has an excellent list of safe internal temperatures.
5. Know how long leftovers can last—Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible, in shallow containers, so they cool off more quickly. Shelf life of leftovers varies by food—but most are only good for three to four days. Use the USDA’s AskKaren service 24/7 via computer or mobile device to ask how long your specific leftover will remain fresh.
Check off this list, visit those websites and feel pride—and confidence—that your guests will leave with full stomachs and happy hearts, but not with a foodborne illness.
About the blogger
Mike Robach serves as vice president for corporate food safety, quality and regulatory affairs at Cargill. Mike has worked closely with the USDA and FDA regarding food safety policy, HACCP, and regulatory reform based on science. He has also worked with the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on harmonized animal health and food safety standards. He is the current Chairman of the Board of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
Andrew Eccles, Nestlé in the United States
Nestlé has been around for a while now – 150 years in fact – so we’ve learned a thing or two about food safety. We also make sure we keep our work as fresh as we keep our food, which is why we refurbished our Nestle Quality Assurance Center in Dublin, Ohio this year.
While we test everything from the soil food grows in to the packaging it’s delivered in, we understand that you can’t go to such lengths at home, nor do you need to. A few simple ideas make a huge difference when it comes to protecting your safety – we already shared some of those ideas during the Story of Your Dinner twitter chat, and enjoyed hearing tips from other experts too.
With that in mind, we’re grateful to FightBAC for giving us the opportunity to share some tips straight from our kitchen to yours.
We always source the best ingredients for everything we make. You can do the same when you’re cooking. Remember to make sure any food you’re using is safely within its “use by” date, and give fruit and vegetables a good rinse with clean running water before you eat or cook them.
Another way to take care of food is to make sure you’ve stored it properly. Check whether your groceries are best kept in the fridge, in an air tight container, or frozen. It’s also a good idea to store raw foods separate from ready-to-eat food, especially raw poultry, meat, and seafood.
Remember to keep up this separation when you start cooking. A different knife should be used for raw chicken than for vegetables, for example. In our kitchens at Nestlé, we use dedicated equipment for different ingredients to prevent cross-contamination.
If you’re cooking for friends, check if anyone has allergies well in advance! We provide allergen warnings on our food packaging, but chances are that you’re not labeling each dish on your table.
Sending out a quick message before you’ve planned your menu will give you plenty of time to plan delicious meals that aren’t an allergen risk for any of your guests.
Correct cooking isn’t just about taste and, if you’ll excuse the term, mouthfeel – it’s also about safety. Cooking to a safe temperature kills dangerous microorganisms. The difference between a dangerous raw piece of meat and a delicious cut is the application of the correct heat. Too little heat, microorganisms survive. Too much heat, you can destroy nutrients. Always check the correct cooking method and temperature.
Finally, it sounds pretty basic, but remember to wash your hands. Our hands touch lots of surfaces all day and pick up an array of bacteria and other nasty substances…you don’t want that on your food! Keep them clean.
Cooking and eating should be an enjoyable experience. Remembering these basics will keep your body as happy as your taste buds!
Elaine Tiller, Nutrition Outreach Instructor with the West Virginia Family Nutrition Program in Princeton knows her way around a food safety class.
Raising Awareness of Home Food Safety Steps
She found the Story of Your Dinner video (storyofyourdinner.org) to be an effective tool for raising awareness of the food safety steps needed at home to keep family meals safe. Elaine offers Eating Smart Being Active classes through West Virginia University Extension. Her program targets adults with limited resources who are parents with children in Head Start. She also teaches a class to vocational high school seniors.
Video Hits the Mark
Elaine used the Story of Your Dinner pre-and post-video viewing evaluations to assess the success of the presentation. Viewers learned they shouldn’t rinse chicken before cooking it. It also reinforced the importance of hand washing before and after handling food—steps Elaine reviews in her classes also.
Other Story of Your Dinner resources were popular with the class participants as well. The placemats were a hit, and the recipes with food safety instructions were approved for use in classes by the staff supervisor, an RD. Elaine intends to use them in future cooking classes.
Thermometers Bring Food Safety Home
Class participants receive their own instant read food thermometer to use at home, along with a FightBAC temperature chart which Elaine downloads from the website, laminates, and adds a magnet to. This way class participants can hang it right in their kitchen- handy for when using their new food thermometer!
“Sink Those Germs!”
For teaching the kids- Elaine developed the “Sink those Germs” game for health fairs. She uses a “sink” made from a dish pan with an added a spigot and bean bag “germs”. Children are quizzed on when they are supposed to wash their hands and when they answer correctly, they toss those nasty germs (bean bags) into the “sink” and down the drain.
Lynn Nakamura-Tengan is an Extension Educator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Lynn and her team at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources developed and disseminated information on Germ-free Reusable Bags (GRUB) through the Nutrition Education for Wellness website, Hawaii county website, National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences national meeting, workshops, and various community events. Download the flyer here: www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/new/resources/grub_flyer.pdf
Lynn shares the story of “Jan” and how she changed her reusable bags practices after learning about GRUB.
Reusable Bags are Handy for This Volunteer
Jan is an active 72-year-old retired teacher and a volunteer with church and senior groups. She frequently uses her reusable grocery bags to make purchases for her church and for older adults needing assistance with food shopping.
Hot Van + Dirty Bags = Potential Food Safety Risk
Jan kept a handy collection of reusable bags in the back of her van. Her concerns were about the bags tearing and getting worn. She never thought about the food safety risks of cross-contamination when she reused her bags.
Jan saw the GRUB (Germ-free Re-Usable Bags) handout at a supermarket exhibit featuring healthy lifestyles. The display included information about keeping grocery bags clean to prevent cross- contamination. The handout information resonated with Jan and her desire to keep the older adults she serves healthy and safe.
Clean Bags- Help Keep Food Safe
Lynn says, “We help people understand simple steps to keep their food safe and be confident they are doing their best for their family and friends”.
Over the years we have all heard advice related to food safety. Some of this advice rings true, while other guidance is just plain wrong! The Partnership launched Home Food Safety Mythbusters in 2009 to debunk common food safety myths and to give you, the consumer, actionable steps you can follow to protect yourself and your family from food poisoning.
About one in six Americans – 48 million people – will get a foodborne illness this year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. We want to help keep you and your loved ones from becoming part of that statistic!
We’ve taken the most persistent home food safety myths from over the years and given them a refresh for 2016! Take a look at the Fight BAC! Top 10 Home Food Safety Myths and Facts by going to http://bit.ly/Top10myths!
Do you have a food safety anecdote that relates to our Top 10 Myths and Facts? Did we bust a myth that you thought was true? Click here to share your story — we’d love to hear from you!
Also, feel free to share these educational materials with other members of your community! Keep Fighting BAC!®