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Eating healthy during Easter

by Tech. Sgt. Pete Santiago
6th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

As yet another holiday approaches, it is important not to forget about safely handling food for the holiday meal. Whether taking food to a gathering or eating with family at home, proper foodhandling safety techniques are critical. The following recommendations will help prevent a foodborne illness during this festive season.

Keep in mind safe food temperatures. The same temperature that keeps people comfortable, provides the ideal environment for bacterial growth. Bacterial growth increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. Be sure to keep cold foods below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods above 135 F. Temperatures between 41 F-135 F are considered the "danger zone."

Minimize the time any food is left sitting in an environment that will increase bacteria growth. Leftovers should immediately be put into a refrigerator.

Assure that warm foods are placed in uncovered shallow (less than three inch deep) pans to cool down. Once chilled, they can be covered to keep fresh, prevent dehydration and contamination.

Try to avoid cross contamination. Keep in mind that even cooked foods can be contaminated if bacteria are allowed to flourish. This may happen if you stir raw foods, and then use the same unwashed spoon to stir prepared foods. The best way to avoid cross contamination is to assume bacteria is always present. Thoroughly clean all food contact surfaces such as spoons, tables, utensils, cutting boards, dishes, etc.) after each use.

Use proper thawing techniques. The best way to thaw foods is in the refrigerator at 41 F or below. When thawing large meat items, such as turkey or ham, allow 24 hours for every five pounds. Other, less desirable ways to thaw foods include:

  • In a microwave oven as part of an uninterrupted cooking process.
  • Beginning at room temperature, then storing at 41 F or below to complete thawing. During thawing, neither the food's surface nor the internal temperature should exceed 41 F.
  • Under potable running water at a temperature of 70 F, or below, with sufficient water pressure to agitate and remove food particles.

Time and temperature have a major impact on bacteria growth. Bacteria can multiply with ease, given the right conditions. Food scientists insist that perishable foods be left for no more than four hours in the "danger zone." A good technique for holiday meals is to serve the food as it is prepared and clean up as soon as the meal is completed.

As far as Easter eggs are concerned, whole, crack-free shelled eggs are remarkably resistant to bacterial invasion. The eggs cuticle, the shell membrane, as well as the antibacterial and pH properties of egg protein are normally effective in preventing spoilage. None the less, they can become contaminated because of increased handling during preparation and coloring.

Wash hands before each preparation step. Also ensure eggs placed in the yard will not become contaminated with lawn chemicals or animal excrement.

Protect the whole family from bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses through proper food handling techniques. If you have questions about food safety or foodborne diseases, please contact Public Health at 827-9601.

 

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