Ensure a food-safe holiday with a food safety action plan

Safeguard your family this holiday by identifying four areas that pose risk factors responsible for foodborne illness.

Do you have a food safety action plan? You can ensure a food-safe holiday with a food safety action plan. Restaurants aspire to serve safe food. Foods eaten in restaurants or even carry out foods are regulated by rules and standard operating procedures that keep us safe from foodborne illnesses. But what about the food we prepare and eat in our homes? Are we controlling the food safety procedures that ensure our families and friends are safe when eating a meal in our homes?

Here are some tips that can become part of your food safety action plan. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies these as the four most common risk factors responsible for foodborne illness.

Improper holding time and temperature
The temperature range in which food borne bacteria grows is known as the danger zone. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code, the danger zone is defined as 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 57 degrees Celsius). Potentially hazardous food should not be stored at temperatures in this range in order to prevent food borne illness. According to Food Safety Inspection Service, food that remains in this zone for more than two hours should not be consumed.

To ensure foods are kept out of the danger zone, the use of food grade thermometers is recommended. Refrigerators should be kept below 40 F (4.4 C). When cooking, food should reach an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C) within two hours in order to prevent microbial growth. Some foods that are potentially hazardous inside of the danger zone meat, fish, protein rich foods, dairy products; cut or peeled fresh produce, cooked vegetables and any foods containing the above, ex. casseroles, salads, quiches.

Poor personal hygiene
This includes not washing our hands properly; coughing or sneezing on food; touching or scratching sores, cuts or boils; and preparing food when we are sick. Keeping hands clean thru improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Improper cooking
You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Not cooking food to recommended internal temperatures invites possible foodborne illness. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. But how do you know when food is cooked to a sufficiently high temperature to kill the pathogens that cause food-borne illnesses? An accurate food thermometer is the only way to tell.

Cross-contamination
This is the transferring of microorganisms from one surface or food to another surface or food. Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. Improper handling of raw meat poultry and seafood can create an inviting environment for cross-contamination. As a result, harmful bacteria can spread to food and throughout the kitchen.

Keep these tips in mind to preserve the health of your family and friends and enjoy a healthy holiday safe from harmful bacteria.

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