By Abigail Brown
In the summer months when the temperatures are at their peak and you’re spending time enjoying your time and your family, food safety should take a priority in preparing food and serving it for the people you care about.
The Center of Disease control states that hand washing is the #1 prevention against viruses and bacteria. Although hand sanitizers are popular to use, they can only kill some bacteria and viruses and they do not loosen the rest to be rinsed away.
Therefore, let’s focus on the five simple steps to proper hand washing. First, make sure to grab a paper towel. Next, use plenty of soap and scrub vigorously for 20 seconds. It’s the soap that loosens the germs away from your skin. Then, after the soap has loosened the germs you should rinse all the soap away. Finally, use your paper towel to turn off the water. This is to ensure that no germs from the faucet return to your newly clean hands. Make sure hand washing is the first step in food prep in your home and work with your family to get everyone involved.
When preparing food for yourself and your family it is important to consider food safety. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) promotes the four areas of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Clean hands, cutting boards, knives, utensils, etc. with hot water and dish soap before actual food preparation. Any cloths that you use in a kitchen such as dishrags or washcloths should be washed frequently on the hot cycle in your washer. Make sure that any open cuts or burns on your hands are bandaged and you are wearing gloves when handling food.
It’s important to keep food items separate during food preparation. This step starts at the grocery store where you should keep meat, poultry, and seafood items in a separate are of your shopping cart. When you get home, have a designated area of your refrigerator only for those meat, poultry, and seafood products. A cutting board should be set aside for use with meat, poultry, and seafood group as well.
When cooking, focus on the temperature of your food. Make sure meat, seafood, and poultry are thawed in the refrigerator. If meat is thawed in a microwave, be sure to use it immediately. Use a meat thermometer to ensure meats, poultry and seafood reach their proper cooked temperatures. When reheating sauces, soups, and gravies, bring them to a rolling boil and stir items being heated in a microwave to ensure even heating. A proper reheating temperature is 165°F.
All food should be chilled within 2 hours of being served. In the summer months, if food has been in excessive heat, food should be chilled even sooner. Your refrigerator should always be set to 40°F or below. It is a good idea to purchase a thermometer for your refrigerator. That way the temperature is never in question and you can easily adjust the temperature if need be. Always leave enough room in the refrigerator so that the cool air can circulate and properly chill your food.
The summer months are a great time to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet. Berries, melons, peaches, and pears are some fresh fruits that are in season. Many vegetables such as asparagus, green and lima beans, cucumbers, okra, and squash are in their peak season as well. Washing fruits and vegetables is simple. For most fruits and vegetables, only rinsing with water is required. Only fruits and vegetables with a firm skin require scrubbing with a fruit and vegetable brush before rinsing. Washing your fruits and vegetables ensures the removal of dirt, pesticides, and fertilizers.
You can follow all of these simple steps to ensure your food is prepared safely and is delicious and healthy to eat for you and your family.
Beat the Heat: Summer Food Safety
By Abigail Brown