Preparing meals at home can be the key to maintaining a healthy diet and weight. SCPT believes it’s important to follow some basic rules of food safety to ensure your nutritious meals don’t end up making you ill. September is National Food Safety Month and a perfect time to learn about sanitation and proper food safety practices. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year, SCPT is doing its part to spread awareness and education to keep its patients and the community healthy.
Sanitation and Preparation:
- Individuals should avoid consuming raw or undercooked poultry, meat, or eggs, and any surfaces or equipment that come in contact with these items should be immediately sanitized.
- To avoid cross contamination, use clean utensils and separate cutting boards for meat and produce. Wash your hands in between handling different food items (i.e. handling raw poultry and chopping lettuce).
- Utilize the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures guide provided by foodsafety.gov to prepare food items to the correct temperatures. (Tip: Test the thickest part of meat, poultry, or fish with an internal temperature thermometer).
- Special consideration should be applied when preparing meals for children, the elderly, and those who have decreased immunity.
- If you prep your meal in advance to keep your healthy eating on track, ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk by letting food sit in the refrigerator too long (leftovers only last three to four days). Stick to these quick and easy reference guides to determine how long your food items will last.
- Hot food should be held at a minimum internal temperature at over 140° F. Consider investing in chafing dishes or warming trays before your next party or gathering.
- Cold food should be held at 40° F or colder. Check the thermostat in your refrigerator to ensure it is set properly. If you’re hosting a gathering, try placing bowls of chilled food on ice.
- After two hours at room temperature, food items should be discarded.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with clean, running water – even if you’ll be peeling them.
- Send any undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat back to the kitchen.
- When ordering shellfish, ensure it’s from a reputable source.
- Only dine at buffets that have proper sneeze guards and temperature control systems (like ice or built-in chilling for cold food and chafing dishes or warmers for hot items) in place.
- If you’re on-the-go, ready-to-eat foods are often a quick and convenient option. Make sure to purchase these options at a reputable location, and always check the expiration or packaging date.