Did you know that September is National Food Safety Education Month?
As such, the Partnership for Food Safety Education; the US Department of Agriculture; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Food and Drug Administration; and the northern Virginia catering industry want consumers to know one thing: Just because you’ve “always done it” — that is, stored or prepared your food — one way doesn’t mean that it’s good, or even safe to continue doing so.
FACT: What feels cold to the human skin may very well not actually be cold enough to protect perishable foods. It’s important to use a thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator stays at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You might be surprised to learn that nearly half of all home refrigerators operate at temperatures above this level, placing your food and your health in the danger zone.
FACT: Many people believe that it’s too cold inside a properly cooled refrigerator for harmful bacteria to survive, but the truth is Listeria can grow at temperatures well below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, a recent study showed that your refrigerator’s produce compartment was one of the ‘germiest’ places in the kitchen, containing both Salmonella and Listeria.
Protect your food and your family:
FACT: Well, as we’ve already addressed: Bacteria are present, even in the refrigerator. Though cooler temperatures do slow the growth of bacteria, they will not stop their growth entirely. The best way you can avoid the infection of harmful bacteria is to follow the two-hour rule: Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Cut that number in half if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
FACT: At Boulevard Café Catering, we’re glad that so many of our corporate catering customers recognize the importance of washing fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking, but too few understand the benefits of blotting dry. Research has indicated that drying fruits and vegetables after rinsing only further reduces the likelihood of contamination.
August! Tomorrow marks the first day of August, and it’s hard to believe the summer is flying by so quickly. Soon, your kids will be back in school, and your days will be filled with homework, and boxed lunches, and permission slips. Soon, but not yet.
You’re determined to enjoy these dog days of summer while they last.
You’re determined to throw at least one more cookout before summer’s end.
From the Partnership for Food Safety, consider the following tips:
Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
Wash your hands (Have we gotten our point across yet?) before and after handling food, and ensure you do so properly. Using warm water and soap, lather and rinse for at least 20 seconds.
Perishable foods are a veritable breeding ground for bacteria, and this bacteria will compound and multiply rapidly if its left to sit out for too long. No food (but especially not raw meat) should remain unrefrigerated for longer than two hours. Note: On a day hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this two-hour rule shrinks to one hour.
A traditional refrigerator is even better, but if you’re hosting a picnic at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, or elsewhere where you may not have access to such, invest in more ice than you think you’ll need. Ice will keep cold drinks cold, and your food safe to eat.
The food will be far more safe in the temperature-controlled cab of your car than it will in the hot trunk.
Raw meat and poultry should be kept away from, and in a separate storage container than cooked foods, fruits, and vegetables. That means: Don’t slice the watermelon on the same cutting board that just held pre-cooked burgers.
And use it.
The Partnership for Food Safety recommends cooking poultry, casserole, and any leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meats and egg dishes to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; fresh beef, pork, veal, lamb, ham, and fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
When hosting, and cooking for friends at a summer cookout, it’s always better to be [food] safe than sorry, or better yet:
Get in touch with us about catering your next summer get-together, and we’ll suggest delectable, inventive (and food safe!) menu items that include BBQ baby back ribs, Cajun fried chicken, cucumber and black bean salad, cole slaw, and more.