Tag Archives: poultry

Flaming Hot

Hot Enough

There’s a good reason to make sure you’re always cooking your meat to the right temps: foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is when you eat or drink foods that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even poisonous chemicals. There are more than 250 different foodborne illnesses. The top 5 are the most dangerous.

Myths vs. Facts

Myth: Food poisoning is rare and not that serious.

Facts:

Foodborne Illness Stats
Statistics via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Myth: I will know if I have food poisoning.

Facts: Food poisoning is often blamed on things like “a stomach bug,” but it can have many symptoms.

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. You could experience all of these or just one. It really depends on what caused it.

Myth: This happened because my food was dirty.

Facts: There are lots of reasons this can happen.

Fresh fruit and veggies can be contaminated if they’re washed in tainted water or touched by unwashed hands or sick people who help process the food.

Some healthy animals have certain kinds of bacteria to help their digestion. These can come in contact with the meat you eat during processing. Salmonella, one of the most dangerous foodborne illnesses, can infect a hen so that its eggs are infected from the start.

Leaving raw food to thaw out of the fridge or leaving cooked food out for too long, like at a potluck or BBQ, can let bacteria grow.

Food coming into contact during cooking with raw meats or dirty cutting boards and knives can spread the bacteria to things that were clean!

What Should I Do?

First, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies after you buy them and storing things safely.

Heat can kill bacteria, so always make sure you cook your food to the right temperature. You can do this by using a food thermometer.

Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, but it shouldn’t be touching bone or fat. Check the temp toward the end of cooking but before you think it will be done. And make sure to clean it well with hot, soapy water between each use.

Use these handy guides to cook and grill your food to safe temperatures:

Meat & Poultry Temperature Guide
Image via Food Network

 

Grill Master Guide
Image via Visual News

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

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Safe, Fresh Food Storage

Keeping Things Fresh

Storing your fresh food correctly is important. It protects you from contamination that can make you sick, and it helps you get the most out of your groceries. If you store your fruits and veggies in the wrong way, they can go bad more quickly, before you have the chance to use them. These tips can help.

Tip #1

Keep them cold. Most importantly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, 40°F or below, and the freezer should be 0°F or below.

Foods that need refrigerated should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home. Never allow food that should be refrigerated, including leftovers and takeout, to sit out for more than 2 hours.

As soon as you get home from the store, freeze any meats that you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 days.

Tip #2

Some things always need to be refrigerated. All produce that is pre-cut or peeled needs stored in the fridge.

Eggs, meat, chicken, and seafood need to be refrigerated.

Tip #3

Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be refrigerated. Tomatoes get mushy and lose their flavor; bananas will turn black, and the starch in potatoes turns to sugar when kept in the fridge.

And while potatoes and onions do best in a cool, dry place, don’t keep them under the sink where leaking sinks can ruin them. And never store any food near cleaners because they can poison you.

Tip #4

Some fruits should be ripened on the counter and then refrigerated. Avocados, kiwis, and fruits with a pit, like peaches and plums, take a few days on the counter to ripen and then can be kept in the fridge.

Tip #5

The containers some produce comes in are good ways to store them. When you bring home berries, make sure you go through them and remove all spoiled ones so they don’t spread mold to the other berries. Their containers also allow for air to get to them.

Things like grapes and onions also come in bags that let air get to them.

Salad mixes also often come in good storage containers. It can be a good idea to put a paper towel between the lid and greens to prevent condensation.

Always make sure your meat is wrapped well, both for the best quality and to protect other food.

Tip #6

Some things shouldn’t be stored together. Never store anything you eat raw, like fruits and veggies, near anything that must be cooked to be safe to eat, like raw meat, chicken, or seafood.

And even though potatoes and onions both do well in cool, dry environments, you shouldn’t store them right next to each other. That goes for most foods and onions because other foods can take on the onion flavor. (But make sure to store green onions in your fridge in the crisper drawer.)

If you buy root vegetables with their tops still on, like radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots, cut the greens off and store them separately. Never used the tops before? Don’t worry, we can help!

Tip #7

Use water to keep some things fresh for longer. Asparagus and fresh herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, stay fresh for longer when you store them with the ends in a jar or cup of water.

Still not sure how to handle a certain food? This handy guide can help:

How to Store Your Groceries
Image via Buzzfeed

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

And make sure you keep your food bacteria-free by washing your produce and practicing safe food prep.

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Checking Expiration Dates

Long View: Food Safety – What’s in a Date?

I was hunting for some cookies at my mom’s house, and I noticed a bottle of Tabasco® sauce in the back corner of the pantry. I wondered why she had a new bottle of something she rarely uses, and she told me she just keeps it around and had moved it from her house on Church Street.

“Gee, Mom, that was 12 years ago,” I said, and it got me thinking about expiration dates and what they mean.

I hope during this holiday season and all year long, Health Alliance Medicare members and non-members alike, pay attention to this wise advice from the experts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines the most common terms this way.

• A “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date.
• A “best if used by (or before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
• A “use-by” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The maker of the product determines this date.
• “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Who knew?

Another good food safety resource is your local University of Illinois Extension office. Jenna Smith is the nutrition and wellness educator for Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties. She has a safety-first approach.

“Dates on food packaging can be very confusing,” Smith says. “But in general, most dates refer to best quality, not to food safety. When in doubt, throw it out. If the food develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, do not use it.”

As a former holder of a Food Service and Sanitation Certificate, I tend to take a very conservative approach when it comes to food safety. I especially remember some videos on the proper methods for handling raw chicken and the consequences of not maintaining the proper temperature. I didn’t eat poultry for two years.

Paying attention to safe food practices and being well informed are the best ways to be safe. I think my mom’s Tabasco sauce has transformed from a condiment to a treasured family heirloom along the way. I am OK with it for now, as long as I’m not eating it.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Health Alliance!