- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse
FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCE STAFF
NC COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
BRUNSWICK COUNTY CENTER
The holiday season can put people at risk for foodborne illnesses. Refrigerators and dining rooms are full, parties and celebrations are plentiful and some of the foods we only prepare once a year, challenging even the most experienced cook.
Test your food safety knowledge by answering the following true or false questions.
1. Because it has been cooked for such a long time, it’s OK to let the Christmas ham or turkey set out until you make sandwiches later.
2. Leftovers should be cooled before placing them in the refrigerator.
3. When there isn’t room in the refrigerator, it’s safe to leave food outside, in the garage, enclosed sunroom or on an extra porch to keep cold.
4. Because parties and buffet lines can go on for several hours, care should be taken to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
5. Perishable foods received from a mail-order company are always safe to eat when they arrive.
OK. Here are the answers. How did you do?
1. False. Any perishable food, regardless of how long it has been cooked, should not be allowed to set at room temperature for longer than two hours.
2. False. Food does not need to be completely cool before the leftovers are put in the refrigerator Refrigerators should be kept at 40 degrees or below to keep foods out of the temperature danger zone. Keeping it below 40 allows for slow bacterial growth and good food quality.
If you have a large quantity of a hot food, such as a pot of soup, break that down into several small containers or put in an ice bath so it will cool quickly. This will help prevent the hot food from raising the refrigerator’s temperature and/or heating the other items in the refrigerator.
3. False. There is no guarantee the temperature outside will stay cold enough to keep food safe. The garage may warm due to the heat from a car engine, sun may come in through porch windows to heat the air or food item and unwanted critters or neighborhood pets may be attracted to foods.
All perishable items should be kept in a refrigerator or ice chest and the temperature monitored to insure it is kept below 40 degrees.
4. True. Parties and holiday get-togethers go on for several hours and often during these festivities people become unaware of how long food has been at room temperature. The key is food should not be allowed to stay at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you know that the event will last longer than two hours, make plans to keep the hot foods higher than 135 degrees and the cold foods below 40 degrees.
Instead of putting all the food at out early in the event, place small amounts on several serving platters and replace the platters after two hours with those that have been refrigerated or heated. Don’t just dump new food on top of the old. Discard any of the food that has been setting out longer than two hours.
5. False. Even foods shipped from reputable mail-order companies may be mishandled and may be unsafe when they arrive. If you are ordering food to be shipped, ask the company how they ship the item and if it is packed with a cold source.
Even if a product is smoked, cured, or fully cooked it is still perishable and must be kept cold. Perishable food gifts should be delivered as quickly as possible and marked “Keep Refrigerated.” Open them immediately upon arrival and check the temperature. It should arrive at 40 degrees or below. If it is not, don’t eat the food and notify the company.
As with any time of the year, remember the standard food safety advice: “When in doubt, throw it out.”