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Food Safety

Food Handling Safety

Wash hands before handling food. The water you wash your hands in should be water that you would drink. Washing hands in filthy water kind of defeats the purpose. Ideally, wash hands vigorously under running water, with soap, for a full 20 seconds. Be sure to get between the fingers and around the nails. Soap and water work best but if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizers do not kill all micro-organisms though so opt for soap and water if you can.
Don’t eat foods from damaged or bulging containers. If your can or jar is seeping, leaking, or you see mold around the seal or in the contents dispose of them safely. If you open the can or jar and see signs of fermentation or it’s bubbling, dispose of it. Also, if you feel a release of pressure when you open the can or jar or anything else that seems suspicious, don’t risk it. The last thing you want in an emergency situation (or even during normal rotation of food) is a case of food-borne illness or botulism poisoning. It does not take long for the bacteria and mold count in contaminated food to reach dangerous levels. Cooking food can help kill many micro-organisms, but that may not destroy the toxins they’ve left behind and if the amount of bacteria is too high, normal cooking may not even destroy all the bacteria, mold, and their toxins. Two clichés worth remembering: Better safe than sorry. If in doubt, throw it out. Food borne illnesses can be dangerous and leave you weak for weeks or even months if you survive. The best thing to do is to destroy the food and make sure it is disposed of in a manner that does not leave it available for other persons or animals to get ahold of it.

Keep foods and all cooking surfaces and utensils clean. Cooking food can help get rid of lots of pathogens, but the higher the bacteria/mold count, the less likely that you’ll be able to bring them down to acceptable and safe levels. In Putting Food By: 5th Edition by Green et. al., they call it the “bacterial load”. Bacteria, when given the chance, grows exponentially. Contaminated food, hands, and utensils all contribute to the amount of bacteria present and what may be a safe cooking temperature and time under normal circumstances may not be enough if the amount of pathogens is too high. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends for disinfecting the following recipe: 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water. This can safely be used to clean all counter surfaces, cutting boards, utensils, and anything else used during the preparation of food.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. B acteria are found in most foods. Bacteria double in number every 10 to 30 minutes when exposed to ideal temperatures, pH, nutrients or moisture levels. Refrigerated foods should be kept at 40 degrees F or lower to slow down the growth of bacteria. Refrigerating food only slows down that growth, it does not stop it, so be sure to date foods and dispose of properly once they have expired. Freezing at 0 degrees stops all bacteria growth.
Here is a list of some items from FoodSafety.gov to give you an idea of how long you can hold various foods in the refrigerator before it is considered unusable.
Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
These short but safe time limits for home-refrigerated foods will keep them from spoiling or becoming dangerous to eat. The guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.
Category
Food
Refrigerator
(40 °F or below)
Freezer
(0 °F or below)
Salads
Egg, chicken, ham, tuna & macaroni salads
3 to 5 days
Does not freeze well
Hot dogs
opened package
1 week
1 to 2 months
unopened package
2 weeks
1 to 2 months
Luncheon meat
opened package or deli sliced
3 to 5 days
1 to 2 months
unopened package
2 weeks
1 to 2 months
Bacon & Sausage
Bacon
7 days
1 month
Sausage, raw — from chicken, turkey, pork, beef
1 to 2 days
1 to 2 months
Hamburger & Other Ground Meats
Hamburger, ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, & mixtures of them
1 to 2 days
3 to 4 months
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb & Pork
Steaks
3 to 5 days
6 to 12 months
Chops
3 to 5 days
4 to 6 months
Roasts
3 to 5 days
4 to 12 months
Fresh Poultry
Chicken or turkey, whole
1 to 2 days
1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces
1 to 2 days
9 months
Soups & Stews
Vegetable or meat added
3 to 4 days
2 to 3 months
Leftovers
Cooked meat or poultry
3 to 4 days
2 to 6 months
Chicken nuggets or patties
3 to 4 days
1 to 3 months
Pizza
3 to 4 days
1 to 2 months

Boil all home-canned, low-acid vegetables and meats 10 minutes plus one minute per 1,000 feet in altitude before tasting. Do not eat contents of can if food is suspicious. Again, if in doubt throw it out. And make sure to throw it out in a way that other persons or animals won’t be able to eat it and become ill.
Don’t leave cooked or opened cans of food at room temperature longer than 3 hours. Ideally either refrigerate unused portions as soon as possible or maintain at a temperature of 140 degrees F. For emergency situations I recommend opening and cooking only what you need for that meal to reduce the need for storage afterwards as refrigeration may not be a possibility.

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