Skipping out on simple food safety rules may have bigger consequences than you think. Beyond resulting in a belly ache, it can have more serious outcomes for those with weaker immune systems, like young kids, pregnant women and older adults. Here are 5 food safety guidelines that most people forgo because they are busy, forget or just don’t know any better.
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Go ahead, open your fridge. How long have most of the items been in there? You’re probably thinking to yourself, when should they be tossed? Since the sniff test or a quick eyeball over isn’t the best way to make that determination, take a look at the guidelines and then get ready to keep or toss ‘em.
Your refrigerator and freezer are temporary storage facilities that can extend the shelf life of food. However, the food stored in your fridge and freezer can definitely spoil within a specific time frame. Here are guidelines for common foods but if you’re ever in doubt, toss the food out.
- Leftover baby food (jarred or canned): 2 to 3 days (refrigerator)
- Opened canned juices: 5 to 7 days (refrigerator)
- Fresh orange juice: 6 days (refrigerator) or 6 months (freezer)
- Opened sodas or carbonated beverages: 2 to 3 days (refrigerator)
- Soy or rice milk: 7 to 10 days (refrigerator); don’t freeze
Food Safety Basics
Eggs are considered a potentially hazardous food that may cause illness if they’re not handled correctly. Raw and undercooked eggs have been associated with salmonella poisoning. Most folks infected with the salmonella bacteria develop symptoms about 12 to 72 hours after infected. Most people can recover but if symptoms are severe, hospitalization may be required especially in those with a compromised immune system (like the very young and old). Proper handling, cooking, and hand washing can prevent most of the issues.
Keeping Eggs Safe
Egg safety begins at your market and continues until the time when you reserve leftovers.
- Purchasing: Inspect egg cartons at the market. Don’t purchase cracked or dirty eggs and be sure to check the sell-by date. Eggs should always be refrigerated, even when on display.
- Storing: Be sure to get those eggs home quickly. They shouldn’t sit at room temperature longer than 2 hours—1 hour if it’s above 90 degrees. Once home, place the eggs in your refrigerator immediately.
- Preparing: When preparing eggs, wash your hands, any utensils, and surfaces that will come into contact with the eggs. If you’re not sure if the eggs are safe to eat, toss them. Once the equipment is used for the eggs, be sure to wash them with soap and warm water immediately. Don’t use them for another prep task (that’s cross-contamination!).
- Cooking: Always make sure that your eggs are safe to eat. For hard-boiled (or any cooked) eggs, you want to cook the eggs until both the white and yolk are firm. Learn how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs.
- Leftovers: Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They shouldn’t be frozen.
The government is finally moving forward with the biggest overhaul of food safety rules since the Great Depression—it’s about time! With major recalls in the past few years of melon and peanut butter, the safety of the U.S. food supply has been under major scrutiny. Food safety advocates are thrilled, but will these government plans really keep our food supply safe?
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama and hailed to be the first major overhaul in the safety of our food system in 70 years. The entire system shifts the focus to prevention rather than reaction when a problem occurs. There are 2 new rules proposed by the FDA that would govern about 80% of the U.S. food supply, excluding meat and poultry.
With cold and flu season upon us, it’s important to get the facts on how to prevent the spread of germs in and out of the kitchen. I had the pleasure to speaking with Jason Tetro – AKA The Germ Guy—where we discussed how to keep your kitchen safe, the calming effects of hand washing and why kids should eat dirt.
Q. How did you come to be known as the “Germ Guy?”
Back in 2008, I was asked by the local television station, CTV Ottawa to do regular question and answer segments on germs and our relationship with them in our daily lives. The host, Leanne Cusack, felt that my title, “University of Ottawa Microbiologist Jason Tetro” was a little too long and shortened it to “The Germ Guy.” The name stuck in the community and soon, I was better known by that moniker. I went on to develop my own blog and then became a contributor for the Huffington Post.
Q. I heard that you always wear a loose piece of clothing in order to help prevent the spread of germs. Can you explain?
One of the best ways to prevent infection is simply to avoid exposure through the nose and mouth. I tend to wear a loose undershirt so that when I am around someone who is obviously sick and not following proper etiquette – such as sneezing or coughing into the elbow – I take the matter into my own hands and cover my nose and mouth with the shirt. It’s come in handy in many places and thankfully, I’ve never been mistaken for a robber!
Fruit Flies 101
Adult fruit flies (Drosiphila melanogaster) range in size from 1 to 2 millimeters, have red eyes and tan or brownish body. They like to lay their eggs on fruit that’s getting ready to be harvested; that’s how they make it into your home, though they can come in through open doors and windows. Once in your home, these small flies will hang out near rotting fruit, especially old bananas hanging out on your counter. These flies reproduce quickly—they can lay up to 500 eggs over the course of their 1-week lifespan.
Other common breeding grounds for these bugs include decaying meat, large spills of sugary soda or alcohol, sink drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles and cans, trash receptacles, wet mops and dirty rags.
You know you should be eating your fruits and veggies. But it’s just as important to your health to make sure your produce is clean and free of harmful pathogens. Luckily, there are simple tips you can follow to keep you and your loved ones safe.
The culprits include raw fruits and veggies and fresh juices made from them. Choosing organic or sticking to the clean 15 can help decrease the amount of pesticides in your produce but it won’t change the possibility that harmful microorganisms may be present.
At the Store
Whether you’re buying from your local supermarket, farmers’ market or belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) keep these tips in mind:
- Purchase in-season fruits and veggies, especially in the summer when so much is available.
- If you’re heading to your local farmers’ market, go early! You don’t want to buy fruits and veggies that have been sitting out in the heat for many hours or that have been touched by lots of people.
- Buy only what you need for the week. You’re better off making several quick trips to the market rather than stocking up and risking having the excess go bad.
- Choose produce carefully. Look for signs on spoilage such as mold, bruises, mushiness or cuts.
- Instead of buying pre-packaged produce, choose loose produce. It gives you a better opportunity to check for signs of spoilage.
- When buying fresh juice, be sure it’s pasteurized (treated with heat to kill harmful germs). If you’re not sure, ask or don’t buy it. Remember, young kids, pregnant and lactating women, older adults and those with a compromised immune system should lay off unpasteurized juices.
- If you’re bagging your produce in reusable bags, be sure to wash the bags regularly.
The Environmental Working Group constantly scrutinizes the amounts of pesticide residues found on popular produce. We want to keep you updated on which fruits and veggies you should buy organic – here’s a review of the 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Residues.
The Dirty Dozen PLUS
The top 12 most contaminated had remained relatively consistent other than a few items shifting positions. But in 2012 a “PLUS” category was added to the original dozen. Conventionally-grown green beans, kale and collard greens have been given special consideration because of an especially dangerous toxin they are treated with. Organophosphate insecticides are toxic to the neurological system and are found in even higher amounts on bell peppers and nectarines (numbers 3 and 6 on the Dirty Dozen list).
The hot weather is the perfect time to picnic and cook outdoors, but the warm weather also creates the perfect environment to support the growth of harmful food bugs. Keep your food and family safe by following these simple tips.
#1: Use a thermometer
A thermometer is the number one tool to make sure your grilled goodies are cooked to the perfect temperature to destroy pesky pathogens. Studies show that checking the color of the food isn’t an accurate way to tell if your food is cooked through.
#2: Monitor leftovers
Perishable food like cooked or raw meats and salads should never be left out at room temperature for over 2 hours. When the weather gets hot — above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — your window for leaving food lying out is only 1 hour. Toss any unrefrigerated food if it surpasses the time limit.
Farmers’ markets are the prime destination for fresh and local food, but they’re not immune to germs and bacteria. Farmers work hard to comply with state and federal food safety standards but patrons also have to keep their eyes peeled (and their produce washed). Use our tips to help avoid food safety pitfalls.
Whether it’s organically grown or not, produce needs to be washed well. It’s a good thing that farmers’ market produce isn’t waxed like much of what you’ll find in the grocery store, but these local goodies are often covered with dirt. Rinse delicate items like berries, herbs and lettuces well just before use; rinsing them before storing them can cause them to get moldy or mushy. Sturdy produce like carrots, apples and potatoes can handle a good scrub. Thick-skinned foods like melons should be washed before you slice into them.
Some vendors turn their produce into drinks like apple cider. Look for pasteurized beverages, especially if you’re pregnant, elderly or serving them to young children.