Perhaps you have a lot on your plate this holiday season, with friends’ parties, exhausting shopping excursions, and decorating classrooms stretching your wallet and your back, until everything hurts. You may be trying to save time and money by turning homemade leftovers into extra meals. And after all, properly planned meals each week can help balance times of indulgence with staying on top of your diet.
No matter where you go, either work, home, or out on the town, it is also important to follow food-safety guidelines from purchase to storage. The food-borne illnesses that continue to strike various edibles from meats to produce are evident, according to this latest report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent outbreak affects bean sprouts. Besides keeping an eye out on various things to avoid purchasing during the outbreaks, www.foodsafety.gov, recommends avoiding making your meals into a student science experiment in bacteria studies by using proper preparation. Food poisoning still afflicts one in six Americans or 48 million people per year, sending 128,000 on their way to the hospital, with likely expensive health bills.
These rules apply even when you are dining out with family, friends, and at holiday parties. Although it may be impolite to question the safety of your hosts’ menu, if you are hosting a party, wouldn’t you be embarrassed if one of your party-goers became ill? Whether you use a covert digital application like this one, from homefoodsafety.org, or consult your own rule book, here are a few things to keep in mind:
At home and at your school:
Use a clean fridge, and keep food separated to avoid food-borne illnesses from growing, even in cold temperatures. Use insulated carriers, when outside of the fridge. Wash and dry containers and ice packs thoroughly after use. Date your food, especially in communal fridges. Avoid handling cell phones and other objects or devices during food preparation and consumption. Use a proper thermometer for the fridge and one in the oven to ensure food is properly chilled and cooked respectively. Check out these thermometers as recommended by Good Housekeeping. Test before using. Don’t go by memory, follow this food chart, from foodsafety.gov, and you will stop saving items longer than indicated.
Winter power outage?
Food can keep up to four hours without power to a fridge, or no more than two hours out in temperatures over 40 degrees. Produce can spoil faster than meats, so keep sandwich items separate before consumption, like the lettuce and tomatoes away from the meats and breads.
At an event:
Keep hot food hot, and refrigerated food cold and chilled and out for no longer than two hours in room temperatures. Don’t cross contaminate fresh and new food, and return food to the refrigerator in shallow dishes no taller than a couple of inches in height. Keep drinking cups clean as well, and avoid stacking damp items, as bacteria can get trapped in the base of glasses and cause illness just as equally as spoiled food can. This can happen in cafeterias and other food areas too, so always check that you are using a clean cup, without residue like lipstick on it as well. Lastly, know your guests allergies or dietary needs.
Are you a health nut?
Specialty food that doesn’t have as many preservatives can spoil much faster than ones that do, so follow package instructions on refrigeration. These higher cost items would be a waste of dough otherwise. The same goes for natural vegetable drinks that are intended to be made and consumed on the spot, even if they are iced.
Don’t forget your animal friends:
Pets’ foods share similar guidelines for food spoilage. They can’t eat anything and everything. Check out the ASPCA’s guidelines here, as chocolate, some bones, and various items that pets can chew on can cause health problems and expensive trips to the veterinarian.
What are your major food concerns this year, and how do you avoid dangers? Have you found low-cost solutions on saving food or do you purchase expensive gadgets and tools to manage them? Do you have students in your class that have known allergies and how do you work around them? Does your school allow bake sales or is there a ban, with all of the concerns out there? Share your comments with TeacherCents and enjoy the holidays, safely.
Melissa Heule, Freelance Writer