By Kay Blakley, DeCA home economist
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.
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.
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,
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
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.