H1N1 swine flu and everyday food safety

May 9, 2009

The standard USDA recommendations for food safety should be followed with even greater zeal during times of potential pandemic. To refresh everyone’s memory, the guidelines are:

Clean: Always wash hands and surfaces that have come in contact with meat and poultry products before and after handling food.

Separate: Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other foods.

Cook: Using a food thermometer is the only sure way to know that meat and poultry have reached the proper temperature to inactivate bacteria and viruses.

Chill: Refrigerate or freeze all perishable food promptly.

However, there are some more practical tips that can help you stay safe from H1N1 or any other influenza type of virus, as well as other infectious agents. These tips are well worth paying close attention to and following religiously:

Rare hamburgers should never be eaten. Ever!

When dining at a buffet or potluck remember that you should never consume any type of perishable or refrigerated food that has been left at room temperature for a period of time which exceeds 2 hours. This time period decreases if it’s warmer outside and becomes only an hour at 32 C / 90 F.

One third of all people admit to eating pizza the next day that has spent the night at room temperature! Don’t do it!

With many supermarkets and delicatessens placing small samples of food out for tasting, most people don’t realize that those tasty little nuggets have come into contact with the potentially contaminated fingers of countless other customers.

There is a very easy rule for tartares, carpacci, sushi, sashimis, and raw shellfish: Don’t eat them!

Some dried or cured meats can harbour countless germs. Avoid them during times of potential pandemic.

Who is the gourmet chef who decreed that duck at pricy restaurants should be served rare? He/she should be made to eat it! You should never attempt to eat any poultry unless all of its cooked juices are running clear and don’t have a single trace of blood at all. Rare fowl, birds, or poultry of any kind is a one way express ticket to flu illness.

Don’t purchase (or eat) produce with mold, bruises or cuts.

Get a calibrated thermometer and use it whenever you’re cooking anything.

Egg casseroles: 160 F / 71 C
Egg sauces, custards: 160 F / 71 C
Beef, Veal, Lamb, Pork: 160 F / 71 C
Ham Fresh (raw): 160 F / 71 C
Ham Fully cooked(to reheat): 140 F / 60 C
Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose: 180 F / 82 C
Stuffing, cookedalone or in bird: 165 F / 74 C

When you’re preparing egg dishes, like quiche or casseroles, make absolutely sure that the entire preparation reaches a minimum of 160 F / 71 C all the way through.

Remember: Runny poached eggs, sunnyside ups, Caesar salad and sabayons using eggs that are either raw or barely cooked are a direct conduit for H1N1 into your system.

Clean common surfaces (taps, doorknobs etc) with hot water and detergent every day.

Do not share utensils, cups, plates etc with other people.

A kitchen actually harbors more bacteria than any other room in the home. Sponges and dishcloths are notorious for harboring bacteria. Why? Because they can sit wet for days with bits of food on them. A sponge or washcloth that’s wet with food and kitchen-counter germs makes an ideal breeding-ground for bacteria that can cause illnesses. Then, when you wipe down the kitchen countertop, those germs – the same ones that cause a cold or flu to run rampant through a household – have just been spread all over the kitchen. Your best bet? Ditch the sponges in favor of dishcloths you can wash every few days.

Have you noticed that most grocery stores now offer antiseptic wipes when you grab a grocery cart? There’s a reason for that – children put their mouths on shopping cart handles, leaving behind mucus and saliva. That means you can pickup a lot more than a great deal on bananas when you go grocery shopping. Another tip: don’t place unwrapped fruits and vegetables in the grocery cart seat. Diaper-aged children sit in them and accidents do happen.



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