By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, October/November 2004.
Food borne illnesses account for as many as 33 cases of food poisoning each year with most of these occurring at home. The symptoms — fever, chills, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps — are caused by bacterial contamination during food preparation or in days-old cuisine. Whether it’s turkey preparation or sandwiches derived from leftovers, following a few food safety tips can make all the difference:
·Don’t allow perishables to sit longer than two hours. If the temperature is above 90ºF, only allow one hour.
·Don’t refreeze thawed food unless it’s still cold to the touch and you can see ice crystals on it. However, it may lose some of its original texture and flavor.
·Sanitize surfaces and cutting boards used to cut raw meat, which leaves bacteria behind. Either run them through the dishwasher or use a bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water) before placing another food item on the cutting board.
·Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to remove all bacteria. Experts estimate this would eliminate about 50 percent of food borne illnesses.
·Cook chicken and turkey breasts to an internal temperature of 170ºF; legs, thighs, wings, and whole birds to 180ºF; beef to 145ºF; and pork to 160ºF.
·Refrigerate or freeze food promptly, rather than letting it cool to room temperature first. Large portions of leftovers, such as soups, should be stored in shallow pans to inhibit bacterial growth in the slow-to-cool center.
·Taking that sandwich to work? Refrigerate it immediately when you arrive. The bacteria in unrefrigerated food can double every 20-30 minutes.
·Four days is the maximum lifespan for leftovers. If in doubt, throw them out.