Food Safety for All Seasons

Food safety for all seasons

What do beef, peanuts, chicken, chocolate chip cookie dough, alfalfa sprouts and dry spices all have in common? They're among food products that have been recalled in recent years due to safety concerns, such as contamination with E. coli and salmonella.

Lynne' Schatzlein, a dietitian at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, shares the truth about common food safety myths.

Myth: Mayonnaise is usually the cause of food poisoning.
Fact: This is not always true. In the case of prepared salads, like potato salad, it’s usually the protein in the dish, such as chicken or eggs, that causes it to spoil. To make sure your salad is safe to eat, make sure it hasn’t been kept above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours.

Myth: You can tell if your hamburger is done on the grill by looking at its color.
Fact: You can’t count on the color of your food to tell whether it’s safe to eat. Hamburger meat should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit; eating a hamburger before it reaches this temperature puts you at risk for consuming harmful bacteria. To tell whether your hamburger is fully cooked, use a meat thermometer, which can cost as little as $10.

Myth: Foods chilled in a cooler are safe to eat for several hours.
Fact: Foods that require refrigeration should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Try keeping your cooler cool by freezing bottles of water and packing them around your picnic items. Once the bottles thaw, you can drink the water and replace it with new ice to keep your picnic items cold.

For a picnic-perfect recipe, Schatzlein recommends apple tuna sandwiches, which are not only healthy, but tasty, too. Get the apple tuna sandwich recipe.

Food Safety Tips
You can also reduce your risk for foodborne illness by handling, preparing and storing foods properly.

  • Chill: Promptly refrigerate foods that need it. Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase, or after one hour if temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.
  • Clean: Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces with hot, soapy water often, and don't forget to wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat or cook them.
  • Cook: Cook foods to proper temperatures; use a food thermometer for accuracy. The safe internal temperature for meat such as beef and pork is 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry.
  • Separate: Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other foods.

Party Planning
Whether you're hosting a summer barbecue or a holiday gala, be sure to practice these steps for a safe, bacteria free event.

  • Serve food on clean plates — never put cooked food on plates that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.  
  • Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than one large tray. Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that has already been used.
  • Don't let foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything left out for two hours or more.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept hot with chafing dishes, Crock-Pots and warming trays, and should be 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Cold foods can be kept cold by placing dishes in bowls of ice and should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. 
  • Promptly refrigerate and store leftovers in shallow containers. Most cooked dishes can keep for up to three to four days in the refrigerator. Reheat thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit until food is hot and steaming.

For More Information
For more information about nutrition counseling, please call 619-740-4632. For more information about nutrition support services for patients, please call 619-740-4621. For health, wellness and weight management classes, please call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277).

To learn more about Sharp's nutrition services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.