[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        May 23, 2008

Picnic, cookout seasons call for 
use of extra measure of safety

By Kay Blakley, DeCA home economist

   FORT LEE, Va. (Defense Commissary Agency) -- Knowing how to prepare, handle and store food properly is important all year long, but higher summer temperatures kick spoilage actions into high gear. Under normal circumstances, for example, the rule of thumb for safely allowing foods to remain at room temperature while the meal is being served and consumed is two hours. At temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit it's only one hour. That's why it's so important to know the summer food safety rules and apply them properly.

  • Keep it Clean:  Wash hands with soap and water often while you're handling food, and do the same for any surfaces the food touches.

      On a picnic, take along paper towels and hand sanitizer or a spray bottle filled with soapy water to accomplish the task. Don't forget to give fresh fruits and vegetables a bath, too. Do it just before you're ready to use them, and don't use soap. Just rinse them well under cold running water, scrubbing briskly with your hands or a soft brush, then dry well with paper towels. Even items like cantaloupe and watermelon, with a rind you don't intend to eat, need this same washing routine to prevent any harmful organisms from contaminating the fruit's flesh when sliced open with a knife.

  • Separate So You Don't Contaminate: This caution starts in the cart at the commissary and carries through to refrigerator storage, to packing a cooler, to cooking and serving.

      Always keep raw meat, poultry and seafood, and any of their leaking juices away from already cooked, ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. Use soap and water to wash hands, utensils and cutting boards that have come into contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood before handling other foods. And, never put these foods, after they have been cooked, back on the same plate that held them raw. Always use a clean plate. If raw meats, poultry or seafood must share space in the same cooler as other foods, carefully pack each of them in sealed, leakproof containers.

  • Chill Perishable Foods Promptly and Thaw Foods Properly:  Nothing will give you a faster start toward growing some nasty, illness-causing germs than thawing foods on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Don't do it!

      Thaw foods in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each five pounds of frozen food to be thawed. For quick thawing, submerge foods wrapped in airtight packaging in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Thaw foods in the microwave, only if you'll be cooking them immediately.

      Refrigerate perishable foods immediately upon returning home from the commissary, placing raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf to eliminate the possibility of accidental drips contaminating other foods.

  • Cook it Safe: If you're not in the habit of using a meat thermometer to verify that everyday items like hamburgers, pork chops or chicken breasts have reached a safe internal temperature, do yourself and your family a favor by changing that bad habit. Even though the accepted advice used to be "cook ground beef patties until the center is no longer pink," judging when the food is done based on color alone has been proven to be unreliable.

      As a matter of fact, a USDA study found that one out of every four hamburgers turns brown in the center BEFORE it reaches a safe internal temperature. So, break out that meat thermometer, and make temperature taking a regular habit.

      To learn more visit https://www.commissaries.com, click on Food Safety Information, then follow the links to "Four Easy Lessons in Safe Food Handling."

      Apply all you've learned next time you're in the mood to grill some rib eye steaks, and use  recipes to put any leftovers to good use.


[ Top of Page ]

[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]