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Monday, July 30, 2007

FOOD SAFETY / ON THE SAFE SIDE

Safety when dealing with food is a matter of common sense, attention to details and the essential ingredient you'll find here: factual, practical information on protecting yourself, your family and your guests.
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1.Quick Tips: Food Safety
by Pat Melgares


Dates on food packages are quality indicators, not safety dates. "Sell by" is the last date a store should sell a product. "Best if used by" means the quality of food goes down after this date. However, the product may be of good quality and also safe to eat long after that date.

Encourage proper hand washing with younger children by having them sing the "Alphabet Song" once. Washing hands with soap for 20 seconds is effective in removing germs from hands.

To help avoid cross-contamination of food, obtain two acrylic cutting boards of different colors or shapes. Use one for raw meats and poultry, the other for fruits and vegetables.

To test the doneness of crumbled ground meat, such as hamburger, form it into a mound and insert a meat thermometer into the middle, being careful not to touch the pan.

Keep hot foods hot (above 140 F) while it's waiting to be served, and cold foods cold (below 40 F). Avoid leaving foods in the 'Danger Zone,' the temperatures between 40 F and 140 F, where bacteria grow rapidly. Never leave food at room temperature for several hours, even if you intend to eat it later.

Pat Melgares, News Coordinator
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#2. Can Your Kitchen Pass the Food Safety Test?
by Nancy B. Peterson
Home kitchens frequently fail food safety tests, noted Karen Penner, K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist.

Problems with the nation's food supply often are blamed on agricultural producers or food processors, but the reality is that consumers share a responsibility in assuring safe food, she said.

For example, one of the most frequent food safety mistakes also is one of the easiest to correct: Wash hands in hot, soapy water before and after eating and/or food preparation. Re-wash each time raw foods are handled.

In the U. S. alone, as many as 80 million people are sickened by foodborne illness each year. Thousands die from illnesses that can be prevented. To reduce risks from foodborne illness in your home, use these tips:

Shop at a reputable store or food provider; buy fresh foods, canned foods free from dents and produce free from bruises or insect damage.
Store food promptly; wrap well.
Use leftovers in a day or two, or freeze them for later use.
Discard foods that have expired use-by dates.
Resist the temptation to sample raw foods, such as tasting cookie dough.
Wash utensils before re-using them. Same goes for cutting boards.
Choose a meat thermometer and use it regularly.
Keep the kitchen clean - make sanitizing your kitchen a habit. Mix one tablespoon of unscented laundry bleach with one gallon of warm water; use rubber gloves and a clean cloth to sanitize kitchen surfaces and cutting boards. Commercial kitchen cleaning products also can be purchased. Store sanitizing mixture out of children's reach.
Wash--or replace--kitchen sponge often. Wash dishcloths in hot water with bleach.
Keep pets out of the kitchen and/or away from food preparation areas.
Are you feeling ill? Let someone else do the cooking.
For more information on food safety, contact the county Extension office or visit the K-State Research and Extension food safety website: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety/

Clean Hands Without Water?
Need to wash your hands, but can't find a restroom?

Some of the newest products on grocery shelves are hand sanitizers. They are bottled to fit in a pocket, purse or the glove compartment of the car or truck, which makes them convenient to use when soap and water are unavailable, said Karen Penner, K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist.

A majority of hand-sanitizers are alcohol-based-they may contain as much as 60 percent alcohol- which means they are flammable and should be kept out of children's reach.

The portable hand cleaners are soothing and refreshing, but, more importantly, aid in killing bacteria and microorganisms that can cause disease. They are a help to people who routinely work outdoors, such as agricultural producers or construction workers; at picnics; or handy before a snack stop on the way home from a game or the playground. They also work well for travelers.

"Washing your hands in hot, soapy water is still preferred. When water is not available, using a hand sanitizer can reduce risks of illness," Penner said.

When preparing food, however, always wash hands with soap and water first, then use a hand sanitizer, if desired.

For more information on food safety, health and wellness, contact the county Extension office.

Choosing a Restaurant
Restaurant-goers may be attracted to the menu, then think to themselves:

"How clean is the kitchen?" noted Karen Penner, K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist. Cleanliness is a concern, but it isn't the only factor in food safety, she said.

For example, food handling and temperature control are more important than the obvious conditions of cleanliness consumers see.

Consumers who are concerned about food safety in restaurants can learn to be observant and to ask questions. Look for the answers to these questions:

Is the food served at the proper temperature? Are hot foods hot? Cold foods cold?
Is the restaurant clean?
Are the host or hostess and wait staff neat and clean? Do they seem businesslike?
Is the tabletop and silverware clean? How about the floor?
Is the restroom clean? Is there plenty of soap, dry towels or an air dryer? If you observe staff in the restroom, do they wash their hands?
Can the wait staff answer questions about how food is cooked?
Has the food been cooked to order? Cooked completely?
Is the plate clean? Cups or glasses chipped or cracked?
Has the wait staff touched the food while serving it?
Does the food have an unusual taste? Texture? Aroma?
Restaurant goers are advised to send food back to the kitchen or ask to see the manager if food is not cooked to order, is served warm instead of hot or cold, or has an unusual taste or aroma. A reputable restaurant concerned about their customer's safety and health will appreciate being alerted to potential problems.
For more information on food safety, contact the county Extension office or visit the K-State Research and Extension food safety website: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety/

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Source: Kansas State University's Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
Nancy B. Peterson
Communications Specialist
K-State Research and Extension
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#3.Avoid Common Food Safety Mistakes
by Nancy B. Peterson

Current public health studies show that the number of potentially harmful bacteria in our food supply is five times the level that it was in 1942. That doesn't necessarily mean that our food is unsafe, said Karen Penner, K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist.
To better understand the issue, it's important to look at factors that are affecting our food supply, Penner said. For example, one significant difference is the fact that technology now allows us to detect more microorganisms. Also, in 1942, most of our food was grown within 100 miles or less of our homes; that meant that people had an opportunity to develop a natural immunity to microorganisms that may have been present in the environment.

Since that time, improvements in transportation (such as interstate highways and jet transports), agricultural methods and food processing technology now allow us to enjoy a greater number of foods produced during global - rather than local - growing seasons. The benefits of eating a variety of foods outweigh potential risks, but it can mean that potentially harmful bacteria may be on the plate, too, Penner said.

Symptoms from foodborne illness can become apparent soon after food is eaten (20 minutes) or up to six weeks later. Anyone can be susceptible, though children whose immune systems are not fully developed; pregnant women; people over the age of 65; and others whose immune systems may be compromised by chronic illness (like asthma or diabetes) or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, can be more vulnerable, she said.

"Food safety is an issue that we all share. Researchers (including many at Kansas State University), agricultural producers, food processors, and food service providers are working hard to reduce food safety risks. Consumers also have a responsibility for food safety - a significant number of food safety mistakes occur in the home," said Penner, who cited a recent Utah State University study that videotaped food safety steps in 100 homes.

"Prior to the taping, each of the participants was asked to fill out a food safety questionnaire and pick one of three recipes to prepare in their kitchen. Many of the participants answered the preliminary questionnaire successfully, but most failed to practice the food safety steps in their kitchens," said Penner, who offered these important (and easy-to-do) food safety tips for consumers:


Keep the kitchen clean.

Wash hands before and after handling raw and cooked food and before and after eating. For example, after preparing raw meat or poultry, wash hands well (lather for 20 seconds and rinse with warm water) before beginning preparation of other foods that will complete the meal.

Be selective when you buy food: be sure to check "Sell by" dates and the condition of the packaging; choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are free of dents and bruises.

Refrigerate foods that need to be refrigerated.

Clean out the refrigerator regularly; discard any foods that appear spoiled or are outdated.

Store staples in a cool, dry area; rotate staples so that older items are used first.

Avoid cross-contamination (the transfer of bacteria from one food to another).

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Follow recipe directions.

Resist the temptation to sample raw cookie dough or other uncooked recipes.

Cook foods completely. Check end-point temperature with a food thermometer - it's the only sure way to tell if food is cooked completely. Thermometers can be purchased for $10 or less.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Wrap well or cover. If cooked foods have been left at room temperature for more than two hours, they should be discarded. If picnic and tailgate foods have been left out for more than one hour in 80 degrees F or warmer weather, they also should be discarded.

Clean the kitchen promptly - allowing dirty dishes to sit on the counter or in the sink can attract harmful bacteria.

Opt for a dishcloth that can be sanitized, rather than a sponge that may attract bacterial growth. Sanitize kitchen aids daily, said Penner, who routinely washes plastic and nylon pot scrubbers on the upper shelf in the dishwasher.
For more information on these and other important food safety and food storage tips, contact the local Extension office or visit the K-State Research and Extension food safety website: www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety/.

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K- State campus in Manhattan.

Source: Kansas State University's Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
Nancy B. Peterson
Communications Specialist
K-State Research and Extension
Contact Penner at 785-532-1672




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