Monday, December 24, 2007

Safe Holiday Eating, an on-line meat industry publication, sponsored a survey on consumer food safety knowledge and practices this fall. They found that food safety information is reaching many consumers, but not everyone puts their knowledge to good use.

The magazine reports that more than 60% of consumers say that they thaw their frozen food in the refrigerator, and the majority of consumers know that poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165ºF. But 63% of those surveyed admitted that they rarely, if ever, used a meat thermometer, and one third claimed to be able to tell that meat was "done" simply by looking at it.

Government agencies and food safety educators spend a great deal of time and effort trying to "get the message out". While they appear to be having some degree of success, the next question is how to get consumers to implement that information.

For starters, here are a few reminders for a food-safe holiday season.

1. Use a meat thermometer when roasting your holiday turkey. You can find details at the USDA web site, and in my blogs of November 23rd and December 12.

2. Use pasteurized eggs to prepare your eggnog, or choose a recipe that includes a cooking step to prevent the possiblity of Salmonella in your eggnog. Remember, there isn't enough alcohol in the eggnog to kill Salmonella.

3. Always clean up very thoroughly after handling or preparing raw meat, eggs or poultry. Remember that Salmonella, Campylobacter and other microbes can be transferred from sponges, dishrags, countertops, sink faucets and the handles of knives and utensils - not just cutting boards.

4. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

5. Cool cooked food quickly - in the refrigerator, not on the countertop. Your refrigerator can handle the load. Do not try to cool the food in large, deep batches. Spread it out in a shallow layer in several containers, if necessary, to cool it rapidly. Then, once the food has cooled, you can consolidate it into a single container.

If you have any tips of your own to add, or questions about safe handling, please post a comment.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

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