Tag Archives: contamination

Let’s Talk Turkey

thanksgiving-turkeyAh, Thanksgiving. An occasion to give pause, show gratitude and celebrate our freedoms and blessings with friends and family. Oh, and also a time to eat… A LOT. But before you belly up to your harvest table on Thursday, keep in mind some food safety tips that will save your Thanksgiving holiday from running a-fowl:

  • While the first Thanksgiving feast likely centered around wildfowl and venison, modern Thanksgiving dinners feature turkey. Turkey is somewhat easy to make (or so I’ve been told), but it’s important to follow some basic food safety rules when handling and cooking your turkey. The USDA recommends thawing frozen turkeys in cold water, but thawing via microwave is also acceptable. When handling the turkey, remember to wash your hands often but DO NOT wash the turkey—a bird bath in the kitchen is a sure way to spread pathogens to other surfaces. Remember, the only way to ensure that you’ve killed potentially harmful bacteria is to thoroughly cook the turkey at a minimum of 325° F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. Finally, it’s probably pretty safe to say that you’ll be stuffed at the end of your meal, but remember that your bird really shouldn’t be, so that you can ensure even cooking. If you’re a stuffed-poultry traditionalist, don’t fret—the USDA has safety guidelines available for all you fast-and-loose Thanksgiving cooks.
  • There’s more to Thanksgiving than turkey. If you’re like me, the real stars of the Thanksgiving table are the appetizers, side dishes and desserts. While these items are usually a little less dangerous from a food safety-perspective than handling and preparing raw poultry, it’s important to remember that pathogens can develop in just about any food via cross-contamination. Remember to keep meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and produce separated when shopping and preparing foods.  In addition, remember to keep cold foods cold (40°F), and hot foods hot (140°F).
  • Ok, so you’re stuffed and ready to settle in for some football-watching and a nap. Your food safety job is done, right? Wrong. It’s important to properly handle the leftovers so that you can enjoy them the next day without threat of illness. As we insinuated above, bacteria grows rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. So, it’s important that safely-prepared food is left out at room temperature no longer than two hours. When refrigerating leftovers, make sure to cover them, wrap them in airtight packaging or seal them in storage containers to help keep bacteria out. Leftovers can be left in the refrigerator for three to four days, and in the freezer for three to four months. When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach an internal temperature of atleast 165°F.

Follow these food safety tips, and you’ll give thanks for a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble, everyone!

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Making Sense of Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes (ABC News)

Listeria monocytogenes (ABC News)

The Centers for Disease Control estimates “approximately 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis [infection caused by listeria] occur annually in the United States.” Even though responsible for fewer illnesses than other pathogens that are out there, listeria’s relatively high mortality rate (especially for certain segments of the population) naturally resonates with both consumers and food producers as a focus for concern. This has especially been the case with numerous high-profile listeria cases making headlines in the past several months.

Consumers may be surprised to find out that, opposed to being some isolated super-bug, “Listeria monocytogenes is commonly found in soil and water. Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products.” Beyond that, food processors, understanding the threat that listeria presents, are especially concerned with the fact that: “When Listeria bacteria get into a food processing factory, they can live there for years, sometimes contaminating food products.”

So what is to be done to combat listeria?   Consumers can check out information on prevention from the CDC here and information from the FDA on proper handling of ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods here. The continuing presence of listeria in the headlines will no doubt also give pause for many food processors to review internal practices/standards, and review local, state, and federal resources to address the issue. Fortunately, risks can be minimized by utilizing programs and products that target some of the following areas: cleaning and sampling; ensuring proper temperatures when processing and handling food; and separating foods and parts of the production/preparation process to avoid cross-contamination.

To assist producers find products that can be of use, Nelson-Jameson has compiled a collection of products, including testing/sampling supplies, color-coded products, and numerous other offerings to both test for and prevent listeria concerns. You can check out these products here.

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