It's hard to think about the holidays without thinking about food - turkey, ham, roast beef, and all the other special treats that go along with the holiday season. With these fond thoughts of holiday foods come pressure – pressure to serve safe food to all those guests and family members. Food safety is especially important if you have small children, the elderly, or someone with an illness that effects the immune system. For these groups, food borne illness can be really severe and even life threatening.
So, how do you know if a turkey or beef roast is thoroughly cooked? Is "done" the same as "safe"? The Partnership for Food Safety Education has launched a food safety campaign called "Fight BACK!" This campaign stresses four simple steps that are critical to food safety.
- Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Be sure to clean and sanitize your hands, cooking equipment and preparation surfaces frequently. This means that each time you complete a preparation procedure for a different food, the area, equipment, and your hands should be completely cleaned and sanitized. Don't use the same equipment on raw and cooked meats without cleaning it first. A simple sanitizing solution is 2 Tbsp. of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water.
- Separate: Keep raw and cooked foods separate, place cooked foods on top shelves, don't let turkeys etc, thaw over cooked foods or vegetables. Don't cross contaminate by handling foods with the same utensils etc, without washing them thoroughly.
- Cook: Be sure to cook foods to proper temperature. You can only be sure that meats and poultry have been cooked to the proper internal temperatures by using a meat thermometer. Also be sure to hold foods at the proper temperatures after cooking has been completed. Keep hot foods hot (over 140 F). and keep cold foods cold (less than 40 F).
- Chill: Place foods in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is finished. Room Temperature is a marvelous temperature for bacteria to grow, and leaving food out is an invitation for food borne illness.
These four steps are considered by food safety experts to be critical control points in preventing food borne illness. A critical point is a process or handling practice that has been identified as essential or critical in preventing food borne illness. These practices, which prevent of control the harmful bacterial associated with food borne illness are under the direct control of the consumer, YOU!