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Watch Out! — Food Safety Begins With You

Food Safety is no joke. As we turn the calendar to catered meals, alfresco dining, outdoor barbecues and garden-fresh, you have to watch out for food safety. The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year 1 out of 6 Americans or 48 million people have a food-borne illness from contaminated food. Food borne illness is dangerous, costly and preventable.

As a professional I ‘m well aware of the do’s and don’ts of food safety, but a recent bout of a food borne bug knocked me off my feet. My malady was the result of my choice at a quick serve restaurant that I’ve eaten in numerous times. Now I’m not dissing the quick serve industry, just keep in mind that food safety is in the hands of those preparing and serving the food. This can include people who may be more or less conscientious about following food safety rules and recommendations.

In keeping with my mantra and goals encouraging you to make healthy choices, I am sharing guidelines for food safe meal preparation and eating. The very first caveat is to start with clean hands, clean work surfaces, and clean fruits and vegetables. I realize some may think this is common sense, but it is always good to have a reminder. Following are additional guidelines to aid in keeping your food safe.

Eating out, be alert, generally speaking food preparers should:

  • have their hair covered with hairnets, caps or some type of head covering

  • the cashier should not be making change and dishing up food

  • wash their hands before leaving the bathroom

If the restaurant is extremely warm and the air-conditioning is not working, you may want to rethink eating there that day.

At the neighborhood barbecue:

  • Do not thaw foods at room temperature, always thaw food in the refrigerator. When thawing meat, place the meat on a tray or in a pan to catch any leaking meat juices.

  • Do not marinate foods at room temperature, marinate in the refrigerator.

  • Do not use juices from marinating on the food. Discard the marinade.

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold food cold. Cooked food should not remain at temp between 40°F to 140°F for more than 2 hours.

  • When prepping food, take care to not cross contaminate by spattering uncooked meat juices onto other surfaces or other foods

Use separate utensils and platters for uncooked food. Once it is cooked use a clean set of utensils to remove it from the grill and place it on a clean platter.

Cook foods to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to make sure the food reaches the recommended internal temp for doneness.

  • 145°F for whole beef, veal, and lamb, fresh pork ham and fish. Allow these foods to rest three minutes before carving and consuming

  • 160°F for ground beef, veal, pork and lamb, and for egg dishes.

  • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey

Place Deviled Eggs on the table, just before serving the food.

Change of Plans:

If plans change, place cooked food in shallow containers, cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate. The refrigerator should be at a temperature of 40° F or below.

My bout with the food borne illness bug was a good news bad news scenario. The good news, I am recovered and feeling great and the not such good news is that I was reminded of how often people may not handle and serve food properly. Be food safe—you always want people to remember a meal for all the delicious reasons.

Take Away—Keep food safety top-of-mind. If you see something that you know is wrong, don’t be shy about avoiding the restaurant, food or meal.

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at


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