The holiday season is fast approaching! Although we still have a few weeks before Thanksgiving, some of us are already getting ready. We usually host my husband’s extended family that day and the email has already gone out, asking who will be coming and what they plan to bring for lunch. It’s always a fun day with lots of conversation, noise and food.
Since most holiday celebrations involve some type of food, you want to make sure that food is kept safe. If you’re traveling any distance to celebrate, make sure that the food you’re sharing with your family is safe. Don’t invite unwanted guest such as food borne illness to your celebration! Here are a few myths from www.foodsafety.gov to help you in your meal preparation.
Myth: If I microwave food, the microwaves kill the bacteria so the food is safe.
Fact: Microwaves don’t kill bacteria. Microwaves generate heat that kills bacteria in foods. Microwave ovens are great time savers and will kill bacteria when foods are heated to safe internal temperature. But foods can cook unevenly because of irregular shapes or variations in thickness. Even turntable microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive. Make sure that you follow package instructions that call for rotating and stirring foods during the cooking time. Standing time is also important. This is the amount of time after cooking that microwaved foods should stand before it is eaten. Be sure to check the temperature of the food with a food thermometer in several spots. Hot foods should be at least 160 degrees F to be safe.
Myth: You need to wash all bagged lettuce and greens “just in case.”
Fact: If packaged greens are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed,” then the product does not need to be washed before using. Re-washing and handling the greens creates opportunities for contamination. Always handle pre-washed greens with clean hands and make sure cutting boards, utensils and countertops are clean.
Myth: Once foods are thawed, they can’t be re-frozen; they have to be cooked or thrown away.
Fact: Raw foods such as meats, poultry, and seafood thawed in the refrigerator may be safely re-frozen without cooking for later use. Never let raw foods thaw by sitting on the kitchen counter. If raw foods are thawed outside of the refrigerator, such as in the microwave or in cool water, they should be cooked immediately. Never re-freeze raw or not fully cooked foods that have been thawed outside the refrigerator. If you’re roasting the turkey, make sure that you allow plenty of time for it to thaw in the fridge. A 12 pound turkey will take 3-4 days to thaw. Once it’s thawed, it can stay in the fridge for 2-3 days before roasting.
Myth: I don’t need to use a food thermometer since I can tell when food is cooked by looking at it or checking the temperature with my finger.
Fact: The only sure way to know food has reached a safe internal temperature is to check it with a food thermometer. Color, texture or steaming can’t confirm that a food is safe to eat. The outside of a food may be steaming hot but there may be cold spots inside.
Keep your holiday foods safe for a memorable and enjoyable meal. Don’t let Thanksgiving 2013 be remembered as the one that family members became ill.
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at c-brazeal@tamu .edu or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.