Tips for Parents
Food for Thought
Preparing meals at home, as you well know, requires safe food handling. As you prepare to deliver care packages to your student or to send them back to school with perishable food, ensure that the same amount of care is taken and attention is given to keeping these foods safe too.
Bacteria can grow without making its presence known until it's too late. So, here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to keep food safe.
- Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours. If it spends more than an hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F, toss it then, too.
- Keep hot food hot (at 140 degrees F or above) and cold food cold (at 40 degrees F or below). Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F.
- Use safely refrigerated food in 3-4 days; frozen leftovers in 1-2 months.
- Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.
- Wash your hands before and after prepping foods.
- Wash used cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water.
- When microwaving foods, don't use margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls and other one-time use containers, as they can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
- Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use.
- Don't let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
- Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave.
- Remove food from packaging before defrosting it in the microwave. Don't use foam trays and plastic wraps; melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.
- Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Do not hold partially cooked food to cook later.
- To keep foods like soup, chili and stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill it with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the hot food. Keep the insulated container closed and the food should stay hot (140 degrees F or above) for several hours.
- When carrying cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages and chicken, use an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs or containers of frozen water.
- Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator cold.
- When packing a cooler, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.
- Cook meat and poultry completely. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
- For transport, cooked foods should be divided into shallow containers and cooled in the refrigerator prior to the trip. Place foods in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs or containers of frozen water — or freeze the foods prior to the trip. Just be sure to refrigerate them as soon as you arrive.
Safe As Is
Foods that don't need refrigeration or careful packaging, according to the USDA, include:
• dehydrated foods
• beef jerky and other dried meats
• dried noodles and soups
• peanut butter in plastic jars
• canned ham, chicken
Prepared for our institution by PaperClip Communications, www.paper-clip.com.
Copyright 2006, 125 Paterson Ave., Little Falls, NJ 07424