Spring is upon us, which means that temperatures are rising and we are itching to celebrate the warm weather. This spring, we want to reinforce the basics of food safety by educating our readers about the latest and safest Spring Food Safety Tips!
Four Basic Rules
There are four basic rules that are encouraged by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): clean, separate, cook and chill. Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before handling raw food, use separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat and ready-to-eat foods, cook foods to a safe internal temperature by using a food thermometer and chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking.
Spring Kitchen Basics
Past the four basic rules needed to keep your family safe, there are a few specific things you can do this Spring to refresh your fridge:
‘Spring clean’ your fridge for a fresh, healthy start this time of the year.
- Do not wash meat and poultry. Doing so increases the risk of cross-contamination in your kitchen. Cooking meat and poultry to the correct internal temperature will kill the bacteria.
- When storing leftovers, like large pots of soup or stew, divide them into shallow containers. Slice large portions of cooked meat or poultry into smaller portions and store in containers. Cover and refrigerate.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set to 40°F or below and your freezer at 0°F or below. An appliance thermometer can come in handy to check those temperatures.
Know Your Easter Ham
Ham is a popular meat for the Easter table! You may not be aware that there are several types of ham, each requiring differing preparations depending on the type.
Hams may be fresh, cured, or cured-and-smoked. Ham is the cured leg of pork. Fresh ham is an uncured leg of pork. Fresh ham will bear the term “fresh” as part of the product name and is an indication that the product is not cured. Hams are either ready-to-eat or fresh and uncooked—the packaging will indicate which you have bought.
If uncooked, ham must reach an internal temperature of 145°F once cooked in order to protect from potentially harmful pathogens such as:
- Trichinella spiralis (trichinae) – Parasites that are sometimes present in hogs. All hams must be processed according to USDA guidelines to kill trichinae.
- Staphylococcus aureus (staph) – These bacteria are destroyed by cooking and processing but can be re-introduced via mishandling. They can then produce a toxin which is not destroyed by further cooking. Dry curing of hams may or may not destroy S. aureus, but the high salt content on the exterior inhibits the growth of these bacteria. When the ham is sliced, the moister interior will permit staphylococcal multiplication. Thus sliced dry-cured hams must be refrigerated.
- Mold – Can often be found on country cured hams. Most of these are harmless but some molds can produce mycotoxins. Molds grow on hams during the long curing and drying process because the high salt and low temperatures do not inhibit these robust organisms. DO NOT DISCARD the ham. Wash it with hot water and scrub off the mold with a stiff vegetable brush.
How Much Ham Should You Buy?
When buying a ham, estimate the size needed according to the number of servings the type of ham should yield:
- 1/4 – 1/3 lb. per serving of boneless ham
- 1/3 – 1/2 lb. of meat per serving of bone-in ham
Are Your Eggs Safe?
If you’re hosting a Spring/Easter get-together, the chances are that an egg dish is on the menu. An egg casserole, a delicious quiche, deviled eggs and egg salad are Spring staples and we want you to stay safe! Salmonella bacteria can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs. To enjoy eggs without the risk of getting sick, follow these tips:
- Store eggs in the refrigerator, always.
- Cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm.
- Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160ºF.
- Eat eggs promptly. Don’t keep them warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
- DO NOT EAT hard-boiled eggs used for an egg hunt or as decorations if they have been at temperatures above 40ºF for more than two hours; discard them.
Don’t Forget the Lamb
Lamb is another popular dish for Easter and Ramadan. Cooking and preparation are extremely important in making these dishes safe and delicious. Lamb safety is similar to beef and pork, but there are subtle differences you should know:
- The USDA recommends cooking a leg of lamb, lamb steaks, chops and roasts to an internal temperature of 145°F.
- For safety, cook lamb patties and ground lamb mixtures such as meat loaf to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F, as measured by a food thermometer.
- Lamb leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
- Marinate lamb roasts, steaks, or chops in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Lamb cubes or stew meat can be marinated up to 2 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked lamb. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.
Be happy and healthy this Spring! Don’t let foodborne illness keep you from enjoying the beautiful warming weather and family gatherings.
These tips are courtesy of the USDA.