Food Safety Tips

STINKY FINGER

FDA FOOD CODE COOKING TEMPERATURES

Proper cooking temperatures are necessary to reduce harmful pathogenic bacteria to an acceptable level. If a raw animal protein is not cooked to the required temperature, there is a strong possibility that a foodborne illness may occur. Listed below are some final internal product temperatures along with the time it should be held at for it to be safe.

·       Beef Roast (Rare) 130F for 112 minutes or 140F for 12 minutes

·       Beef, Pork, Eggs and Fish 145F for 15 seconds

·       Ground Beef (Burgers), Mechanically Tenderized Meat (Cube Steaks), Ground Pork 155F for 15 seconds

·       Beef Roast (Medium) Pork Roast, Ham 145F for 4 minutes

·       Poultry, Ground Poultry, Stuffed Meats and Stuffed Food Products 165F for 15 seconds

Always use a properly calibrated thermometer to make sure that your food has been properly cooked, do not guess.  Cold food should be held at 41F or below.  Hot food should be held at 135F or above.  Improper holding temperature of food is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States.

FOOD  ALLERGEN FACTS      

12 million people in the United States suffer from one or more food related allergies.  Common symptoms include: hives, rash, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, trouble breathing and swelling. These symptoms can occur within minutes.  Anaphylaxis is the term used when the allergic reaction is severe, sometimes causing death.        

People who are highly susceptible only need a small amount of the allergen to have a reaction. 90% of all food related allergies are through: Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Milk, Wheat, Soy, Fish and Crustacean Shellfish. There are other types of allergens such as seeds and sulfites, however the amount of people that  suffer from those are far less.  Foods containing any of the above listed allergens must be properly labeled on the ingredient label. In many cases a “Contains” statement is also necessary. This law is from the labeling and Consumer protection Act.  People who work in the food industry should be properly trained on the sensitivity to food allergens. In some cases, it is the lack of understanding how allergens in food should be handled, prepared, labeled, stored and displayed that can cause an illness.

FOOD SAFETY AND OUTDOOR GRILLING

It is estimated that half of all Americans BBQ year round. Whether it’s in the middle of the summer, or the dead of winter it’s important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent foodborne illness. Here are some helpful tips to avoid a potential disaster at your next outdoor festivity:   

1)    Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food you cook. Don’t guess. (Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures: Poultry-165F for 15 seconds, Fish & Pork-145F for 15 seconds, Ground Beef-155F for 15 seconds and Stuffed Proteins-165F for 15 seconds)  

2)    Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling.  

3)    Do not re-use marinades. (You are rolling the dice if you think about reducing the marinade you used for raw proteins to make a sauce for the cooked finished product)  

4)    Reheat all food to an internal temperature of 165F. (Yes, even the hot dogs)  

5)   When shopping, buy all cold items like meat and poultry last, right before check out. Plan to drive directly home or to the event from the grocery store.  

6)  When transporting food, use a cooler packed with ice, keep it out of direct sunlight and be careful of cross contamination from raw animal proteins to ready-to-eat foods. (Even if raw chicken juice gets on the top of a can of soda it’s a problem)

7) Spray bug repellent downwind away from food.

8) Keep everything clean; do not use the same utensils, platters or containers for handling raw and cooked meats and poultry.  

9) Refrigerate leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out for more than 2 hours, 1 hour if the weather is very hot above 90F.

10)  When smoking meats or fish, the temperature maintained in the unit should be 250F-300F for safety.

11)  Wash hands when necessary, if you’re in an outdoor setting with no bathroom, use bottled water, soap and paper towels. Hand sanitizer is also helpful, but is never a replacement for proper hand washing.

12) If you are intoxicated, give up the tongs!

Have fun at your next BBQ, stay safe and remember not to invite any pathogenic bacteria. Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella and Shinga toxin-producing Escherichia coli are not the most pleasant guests. 

HANDWASHING  FACTS

Proper hand washing is imperative whenever our hands have become contaminated and especially before we prepare food. Not only does it reduce the risk of disease transmission, in the eyes of family, friends and fellow co-workers, it sends the correct impression about proper hygiene practices. Listed below are some interesting facts regarding hand washing as well as a description of the process:

1) 80% of all infectious diseases are caused by touch.

2) Proper hand washing is our first defense against such germs as: Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Influenza and other diarrhea causing viruses.

3) There are 52 million cases of the common cold each year in the United States.

4) FDA study reveals that proper hand washing stops up to ½ of all foodborne illnesses such as E-coli and Salmonella.

5)  A staggering one out of three Americans skips hand washing after using the bathroom. Kids are worse, in a survey of Junior High School/High School boys and girls, only 58% of girls and 48% of boys do not wash their hands after using the bathroom.

6) Not only is proper hand washing good just for cleanliness sake, it can also save your life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that proper hand washing nearly halved the incidence of pneumonia related infections in children under five years old worldwide.   

7)  Hand sanitizers are not a replacement for proper hand washing. It is the friction in the process that helps reduce the number of germs.

8)  Hand wash sinks must always be properly stocked; free of soil/bio-film, never blocked or used as a product wash or dump area.

9) Improper hand washing is deemed as a critical Food Safety violation from health agencies.

The FDA Food Code has ten steps for proper hand washing technique:

1.  Wet Hands

2.  Apply Soap

3.  Briskly Rub Hands 

4.  Scrub Fingertips And Between Fingers

5.  Scrub Forearm Just Below Elbow

6.  Rinse Forearms And Hands

7.  Dry Hands And Forearms

8. Turn Off Water Using Paper Towel

9. Turn Doorknob And Open Door Using Paper Towel

10.  Discard Paper Towel (The entire hand washing process should take 20 seconds.)

FLOODING  AND FOOD

It rained so hard, the deep water was flowing down the street like a river and cascading out of my house gutters due to the overload. There was no time to build an Ark. Many Areas in Westchester (County) NY were flooded and when that happens, there must be a prudent reaction in dealing with food and beverage that has been affected by flood water. Sewers and storm drains that have over-flowed or backed up floor drains and the water has invaded areas that prepare and store food, it is a health hazard. A large variety of pathogenic microorganisms can be present, including: bacteria such as E-coli, Listeria and Shigella as well as parasites like Cryptosporidium parvum and Cyclospora cayetanensis. You could even throw in a lovely viral infection possibility like Hepatitis A. If the water comes into direct contact with food, it should be discarded; even a wet cardboard box of produce that has been negligently stored on the floor has got to go. Canned goods or products in jars should be suspect. The label will become compromised and illegible.  If the exterior of a hermetically sealed container is not properly washed and sanitized the chance of cross contamination is present.  Food preparation and storage areas also must be properly cleaned, sanitized and air dried after a flood event. Food and non-food contact surfaces of equipment that have been exposed to contamination should be a no-brainer. Walls, floors and ceilings are susceptible to mold growth which can grow to toxic levels and be a problem if inhaled. Standing water in areas that are not level can be a perfect area for flies to harbor. Then the problem has wings and can spread disease to unprotected products in due time.   Unfortunately for some operators of food establishments, a flood means a financial loss, especially if there is no insurance coverage. Then the temptation to salvage food comes into play and the risk grows. If you add in the fact of underfunded government regulatory agencies being over whelmed with trying to inspect every food establishment that may or may not have had a flood. The only thing consumers can do is hope that operators of food establishments “did the right thing”, instead of worrying about the bottom line.

FOOD  SAFETY FACTS    

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 48 million Americans each year or 1 in 6 will contract a foodborne illness. 128,000 of those will require hospitalization and 3,000 will die. (These are only the reported numbers, most people do not seek medical attention and assume that the “24 hour flu” will go away, when in fact they may have contracted a foodborne illness and not even realize  it.

31 different pathogens are known to cause illness. Some of these are deemed “Emerging”, meaning that some are drug resistant (6 different strains of Salmonella) and some are finding their way into non-traditional foods (Listeria in cantaloupe, for example).    

Norovirus is the leading foodborne illness agent.    

Time and Temperature abuse are the leading causes of foodborne illness (Improper holding, cooking, cooling and re-heating temperatures).         

It takes bacteria 4+ hours to grow to levels that cause illness.      

Bacteria split and divide during “Binary Fission” every 15-30 minutes when conditions are favorable.        

It is not always the last thing you consumed that made you sick.  Depending on onset time, symptoms, the ingredients, victim’s health status, age, who prepared the food and amount of contaminant ingested all need to be taken into consideration.        

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) lost 209 million dollars in budget cuts; inspection rate will decrease 18% or 2100 fewer inspections in 2013.   The FDA inspects less that 2% of all imported food that comes into the United States.       

The Westchester (County) NY Department of Health in New York has had a 14%  staff reduction since 2009, but expects to increase inspections by 10% in 2013. 

Website - USDA MOLDS Table

Website - USDA MOLDS Table2