A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.
“Cooking and mealtime is a special occasion for all of us as we come together with our families and friends,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “However, the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry.”
The results of the observational study showed how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized. The USDA is recommending three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.
1. Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.
This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer.
Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.
Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.
Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.
Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.
Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria. If there is anything on your raw poultry that you want to remove, pat the area with a damp paper towel and immediately wash your hands.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” said Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Have questions? Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP-HOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). Live food safety experts are available Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.
A new interactive app named Kid Eats, designed to help parents and teachers promote healthy eating and introduce cooking skills, is now available at the Apple app store. The program incorporates youth-adult partnerships, with adult and child working together in the kitchen. Designed for youth grades three to six, the app is a collaborative effort between UConn Extension 4-H Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion, a 4-H STEM after school program funded through USDA-NIFA, and the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Media Productions. Kid Eats app is currently compatible with iPad iOS 11.0 or later.
The UConn team brought their nutrition and health promotion background to the project while NMSU Media productions developed the app. The teams created the app to pilot the effectiveness of video instruction to encourage healthy habits. UConn 4-H FANs IM was designed to promote healthy eating and exercise for youth, through fun and engaging activities.
The app includes a step-by-step instructional recipe, while directing users to the KidEats website, which includes seven recipe videos along with one on safe knife skills. Recipes are available to download and include, Banana Breakfast Cookies, Fruit Slushies, Garden Salsa, Hummus Dip with Veggies, Kale Chips, Tortilla Pizza and Sautéed Veggies. The teams plan to expand the app to include additional kitchen skills, recipes and Spanish videos.
By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety
During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving dinner through New Year’s celebrations, people who rarely spend time in the kitchen may be more likely to pick up a cookbook and make some cookies. Or, they may be stuffing their first turkey for Christmas day family dinner. Or possibly trying out a new appetizer for the office party—maybe even ceviche. (For those how may be unfamiliar with the term, “ceviche” it commonly refers to a shrimp or fish dish where citric acid, typically in the form of lemon juice or lime juice, is used to marinate raw fish or shrimp, often giving the appearance that the fish has been cooked.) Ceviche looks opaque and firm. But it is not cooked. The bacteria or viruses that may have been in the raw product have not been cooked away. They are still there. I have seen recipes for “faux ceviche,” that include cooking the shrimp or fish, but traditionally, it is not a cooked product. Consequently, it is risky. Ask your host or hostess if you are not sure of what they are serving.
Here is some guidance regarding foods or ingredients you may consider eating raw, whether you are a new cook or a seasoned cook who has always “done it this way” and “NEVER made anyone sick.” Keep in mind that your family may include very young children, the elderly or a chronically ill family member who may be at greater risk for the more severe consequences of a foodborne illness. So while you, a healthy adult, may be comfortable throwing caution to the winds and eating raw fish, uncooked cookie dough or even a taste of raw stuffing, the higher risk members of your family/friends circle really should not do this.
Be careful with raw eggs.
Raw eggs contain Salmonella. Not every egg. But no use betting on it. If you are choosing a recipe, such as eggnog, which calls for uncooked eggs, there is a safer alternative. Even if everyone is a healthy adult (and do you really know if they are all “healthy”?), it might be best to use a pasteurized egg product. They are often sold by the carton in the refrigerated egg or milk case. Otherwise, you might want to use a recipe for eggnog that preheats the egg to 160 degrees F to ensure that eggs are cooked sufficiently. Here is one from FoodSafety.gov: https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/eggnog.html. Unfortunately, contrary to some popular cooking shows and magazines, adding alcohol to eggnog does not kill the Salmonella.
Watch out for raw doughs and batters.
We have all heard the warnings to avoid eating raw cookie dough—even though we may have all done it at one time with no apparent ill effects. Raw cookie dough or raw batters containing eggs share the same risk as raw eggnog. This would also be true of raw cookie dough that you might add to homemade ice cream. Commercial makers of cookie ice cream and other foods will use pasteurized eggs in their products.
There is another potential risk to eating raw batters and doughs that you may not even be aware of. It is the flour. Yes, the flour. Flour is considered a raw agricultural product. It has not been treated to kill potential foodborne pathogens (microbes that cause illness). Since 2008, there have been five foodborne disease outbreaks tied to flour, two in Canada, one in New Zealand, and two in the US. So, even if a dough contains no eggs (pastry dough, for example), it is best not to eat it raw.
Think twice before serving raw meat, fish, or shellfish.
Honestly, I like a raw clam now and then. Some of my food safety colleagues look on aghast while others join in. Maybe you prefer raw oysters or sashimi. However, I do this knowing the risks I am taking. I do it rarely and only when I think the purveyor has been meticulous—and I still know there is a risk! Lots of folks do not know or understand the risks. Bacteria, such as Listeria, Salmonella, Vibrio vulnificous and parasites that include tapeworm and Anisakid nematodes may be associated with raw fish and shellfish. Again, if you are healthy, and visit restaurant or seafood retailers who are very careful, your risk may be less than that of an immune compromised adult or young child. However, the risk is never zero. So, during the holidays, choose a faux “ceviche” recipe that involves marinating cooked shrimp or fish. Serve oyster stew or clams casino that have been checked with a food thermometer.
If your holiday recipes include some of these risky ingredients, keep in mind that you can spread the pathogens that cause foodborne illness during the preparation steps. When you are cranking out trays and trays of cookies or appetizers, you need to practice the basic sanitation skills that will keep your food safe. Always use clean hands when handling any raw food and wash them again after handling that food. Use clean surfaces, cutting boards, knives, mixing spoons or other utensils: then wash them thoroughly in hot, soapy water before using them to prepare other foods. If that flour you used to dust the pie shell gets spread around or the raw egg drips onto the counter where you are decorating sugar cookies, it could end up in your salad or on your kid’s hands (which at some point will end up in their mouth).
Check the clock as you are baking and try not to leave doughs (or other raw ingredients, for that matter) out for more than four hours at a time. This allows the pathogens to multiply, increasing the risk for cross-contamination.
Finally, every cook is told to taste their dishes before presenting them to the guests. It’s one of the first questions asked of competing chefs on the cooking shows: “Did you even taste this?” But, please, do not taste until the risky ingredients are cooked through. I will never forget a Christmas Eve in my childhood when Mom had made the stuffing, containing raw sausage and eggs, the day before. She always liked to taste the raw stuffing. (Right!) She spent Christmas day in bed….and the bathroom.
For more information about safe food preparation during the holidays, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, or foodsafety.gov, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-486-6271.
WASHINGTON — This week millions of Americans will gather family and friends around the dinner table to give thanks. But for those preparing the meal, it can be a stressful time. Not to mention, for many it is the largest meal they have cooked all year, leaving plenty of room for mistakes that could cause foodborne illness.
“Unsafe handling and undercooking of food can lead to serious foodborne illness,” said Al Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “Turkeys may contain Salmonella and Campylobacter, harmful pathogens that are only destroyed by properly preparing and cooking the turkey. Similarly, leaving leftovers out for too long, or not taking care to properly clean cooking and serving surfaces, can lead to other types of illness. We want to be sure that all consumers know the steps they can take and resources that are available to them to help prepare a safe and enjoyable holiday meal. ”
To avoid making everyone at the table sick, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers five tips for a food safe Thanksgiving:
Tip 1: Don’t Wash That Turkey.
According to the most recent Food Safety Survey, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, 68 percent of the public washes whole turkey before cooking it. USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary.
Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey.
There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave’s owner’s manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.
Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer.
The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry or seafood) is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of these places. The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is cooked, but not overdone.
Tip 4: Don’t store food outside, even if it’s cold.
Storing food outside is not food safe for two reasons. The first is that animals, both wild and domesticated, can get into food stored outside, consuming it or contaminating it. The second is temperature variation. Just like your car gets warm in the summer, a plastic food storage container in the sun can heat up and climb into the danger zone (above 40°F). The best way to keep that extra Thanksgiving food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) is in a cooler with ice.
Tip 5: Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can, within 2 hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if you know you won’t use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. For best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After that, the leftovers will still be safe, but can dry out or lose flavor.
Want additional food safety tips?
If you have questions about your Thanksgiving dinner, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert. Last November they answered more than 3,000 calls about Thanksgiving dinner. You can also chat live with a food safety expert at AskKaren.gov, available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.
If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET.
By Sherry Gray – Extension Instructor Nutrition Educator, EFNEP Supervisor Foods and Nutrition
With colder weather and busy schedules, cooking with crock pot (or slow cooker) cooking is an attractive alternative during the fall and winter months. Crock pots can be big time savers when set in the morning to cook throughout the day. Many people who use crock pots regularly enjoy not having to fix dinner when they get home from work. And crock pot cookery is economical too: even cheaper, tougher cuts of meat are fork tender after simmering for 8-10 hours. But are crock pots energy efficient?
Crock Pot Vs. Electric Ovens…It’s A Toss-Up
Did you know that …. Crock pots run with lower energy wattage (70-250) than a conventional electric oven ( 2000-3000). However, while slow cookers’ heating elements stay on continuously, electric ovens cycle their elements on and off as needed to maintain temperature, often being on for only about one fourth of the actual cooking time. Assuming you would use a slow cooker on high for twice as many hours as your electric oven, the energy usage would probably come out about the same.
Total energy usage can be calculated by multiplying the wattage by your recipe’s cooking time. If you use a gas stove to cook with, it is harder to determine what the energy savings would be. Natural gas is a more efficient fuel than electricity and the newer electric-ignition gas ranges are about 30 percent more efficient than older models that have a continuously burning pilot light. Units used to measure energy consumption are different between gas and electric energy sources so they are more difficult to compare.
Some newer crock pot models are far more energy efficient than older ones. The size of the slow cooker can also affect efficiency. Smaller crock pots are more efficient. Energy consumption using the oven is affected by the number of other foods you can cook at the same time in your oven (so lower overall energy usage), how much heat you lose when you open the oven door, and how efficient and well insulated the oven is. The end result of this issue comes down to the variables – who has the better oven or crockpot. So what then are advantages of slow cookers vs. conventional electric ovens?
Advantages of Crock Pots
Flexibility of cooking time
Can be prepared well in advance and left to cook all day
Portable – you can take a crock pot anywhere and plug it in
Usually no need for pre-cooking
There are a great variety of recipes for one-pot meals
You can use cheaper cuts of meat
Advantages of conventional electric ovens
There’s room to bake several items at the same time
Food cooks much faster
May use less energy because of quick cooking times, and the thermostat cycles the heating element on and off
Better for baking items such as cakes, cookies, muffins
The real benefit of using a crock pot is the time saved by early preparation and cooking during the day. It sure is nice to come home at the end of a busy day to a hot, nutritious meal that is ready to serve! If you enjoy preparing meals in a slow cooker it can be economical and a real time saver. It may help your family eat a more nutritious meal if the alternatives are fast food or less healthy options. For small families, couples or singles, use the crock pot to make extra servings that can be refrigerated or frozen for later, saving even more time and energy. So with the cooler temperatures of fall and winter approaching, pull out the crock pot and enjoy delicious and nutritious hot meals!