Safe food to go

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Safe food to go:
A guide to packing lunches and picnicking

If you could just throw the refrigerator under one arm and take it with you, there wouldn’t be any problem in caring for food to go.

That’s because the best way to fight food poisoning is to keep perishable foods cold between preparation and serving. This is especially necessary for meat and poultry.

Why keep food cold? At temperatures of 60° F and over, food poisoning bacteria can begin to multiply and cause illness. At summer temperatures of 80° F and above, they multiply very quickly.

While food poisoning usually means uncomfortable intestinal flu-like symptoms, it can be serious in the young, the old and people with other illnesses. The rarely occurring botulism is always serious.

Food poisoning is a larger problem than you might think. Food poisoning effects more than two million people a year.

Food poisoning bacteria are tough to deal with because you usually don’t even know they’re present. They are microscopic in size and you normally can’t see, smell or taste them.

For food safety, prevention is the key. By observing these cold storage, sanitation and thorough cooking rules, you can keep your food safe any time you pack it to go, starting with lunch.

What do I have for lunch?

This is a trying question, right? It’s one you face day after day. Whatever you prepare, here’s how to pick it safely – whether it is in a lunch box, a plain brown bag or a leather attaché case.

Packing safely

Keep everything that touches food clean. Stop and wash your hands before preparing food. Wash utensils, bowls and counter tops – everything that touches food – between work on each dish.

Use a fork, rather than your hands to mix meat, macaroni, egg, tuna or green salads.

Why is there all this emphasis on clean hands? Your hands continually pick up bacteria and other germs, and these organisms dig in around the fingernails and in the creased skin of the hand. Only vigorous washing with hot, soapy water prepares hands to safely deal with food.

Cook food thoroughly. For complete safety, raw meat, poultry and fish should be thoroughly cooked, following package or cookbook directions.

Refrigerate lunch the night before. Pack your bag with perishables such as meat or poultry sandwiches and hard-cooked eggs, and refrigerate it. Add other items such as cookies and cold drinks the following morning.

Keep your lunch cold
Here are some other “cool” tips:

Put something cold in the lunch bag such as a cold drink, a small, plastic refrigerator dish filled with water and frozen, or one of the commercial freezing gels. Some lunch bags now come with freeze-pack inserts.

Freeze your sandwiches. This works best with coarse-textured breads that won’t get soggy when thawed. The sandwich thaws in time for lunch, and keeps everything else cool. Hold the lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. They don’t freeze well. Pack them separately to add at lunch time.

Use a vacuum bottle to keep milk or juice cold until lunch time. Try fruit juices in special wax paper cartons that don’t need refrigeration.

Whatever you do, keep your lunch in the coolest place possible. Avoid leaving it in direct sun or on a warm radiator.

Safe take-along foods

Meats and poultry – Commercially precooked and ready-to-eat meats, such as corned beef, salami and bologna, are good lunch box choices because they last well. Canned meat and poultry, which can be opened and eaten immediately, are good bets, too. Just make sure the can is properly sealed and not rusted, bulging or badly dented.

Fruits and vegetables – Fresh, firm fruits and vegetables travel well. Washing them before packing helps to remove soil you can see, plus bacteria, viruses and insecticide sprays you can’t see.

Caring for the carriers
If you use a lunch box or a laminated tote, wash it out every day to keep bacteria from growing in seams and corners. A weekly cleaning with baking soda should eliminate odors.

If you’re a brown bagger, use only new, clean bags. Don’t reuse bags that have carried groceries. They can pass insects or bacteria from other food to your lunch. Never use a bag that’s wet or stained. It could have germs.

Let’s have a picnic!

When a fine summer afternoon makes everyone “think picnic,” you could find yourself organizing one. Never fear. Find the picnic hamper and the cooler. Then thumb through these warm weather food care hints before you head to the store.


Picnic shopping

Buy perishable products last at the store and get them right into the refrigerator, or into the portable ice chest or insulated bag you’re taking on the picnic. Never leave perishables in a hot car while you run other errands.

For longer storage, freeze food. Wrap items tightly in heavy freezer foil or bags. Make sure your freezer registers 0° F or lower. Mayonnaise-based meat, poultry and fish salads do not freeze well. Tomatoes and lettuce do not freeze well.

Thawing – do it the night before. Contrary to common practice, is not safe to thaw meat and poultry on the kitchen counter. Bacteria can multiply dangerously in the outer layers before inner layers are thawed.

To allow plenty of time for larger cuts to thaw, take meat or poultry out of the freezer and put it on a refrigerator shelf a night or two before you need it. Small cuts will usually thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

If the meat is still partially frozen when you’re ready to leave, it is not a problem. Just cook it a big longer at the picnic.

Cook everything thoroughly. Hamburger patties, pork chops and ribs should be cooked until all the pink is gone. Poultry should be cooked until there is no red in the joints. Fresh fish should be cooked until it flakes with a fork. If you like your steak rare or medium-rare, just remember that there is a chance that some food poisoning organisms can survive such short cooking times.

Take what you know about kitchen cleanliness out to the grill

If there’s no water faucet available, use disposable wet towelettes to clean your hands before working with food.

Keep bacteria on raw meat and poultry from spreading. Wash your hands again after working with raw meat or poultry and before handling other food.

Remove cooked meat and poultry from the grill with clean utensils onto a fresh plate for serving. Don’t reuse utensils, plates or bowls you used with the raw product for either the cooked meat or the other food unless it has been washed properly.

Cool it with a cooler

For a relaxed, worry-free picnic, keep your perishable food such as ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburger, hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, custard and cream pies in a cooler.

While all mayonnaise-based salads should be kept on ice, the mayonnaise you buy at the store is not a food poisoning villain. Homemade mayonnaise, if made without lemon juice or vinegar, can be risky.

The cooler should be well insulated and packed with ice, or you can use a freeze-pack insert. Cold drinks in cans also help other foods cool.

Serving young picnickers

Toddlers who don’t chew food well can choke when they try to swallow whole foods. To reduce this danger, supervise meal time. Keep the child seated. Cut hot dogs lengthwise in narrow strips before serving them. Also be careful with carrot and celery sticks, grapes, apples, cookies and nuts. Cut or crumble these foods into pieces too small to block the child’s throat.


Put perishable foods back in the cooler when you finish eating. Don’t leave them out while you go for a swim or hike.

When possible, put the chest in the passenger area of the car for the trip home. It’s much cooler than the trunk.

If you were gone no more than four or five hours and your perishables were on ice except when cooked and served, you can probably save the leftovers. If in doubt, throw it out!

Adapted from: Safe Food To Go: A Guide to Packing Lunches, Picnicking and Camping Out, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service

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How to microwave safely

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How to microwave safely

The popularity of microwave cooking continues to grow – almost every American household has at least one oven. Concerns about the safety of cooking meat and poultry products in the microwave persist. Even the cookware and plastic wraps used in the ovens have come under question.

There are traits unique to microwave cooking that affect how completely food is cooked. “Cold spots” can occur because of the irregular way the microwaves enter the oven and are absorbed by the food.

Since we have traditionally relied on thorough cooking to kill bacteria that may be present in food, consumers should take simple, yet effective steps to ensure even cooking when using a microwave.


When using the microwave to defrost foods, plan to finish the cooking immediately . Some areas of larger food items may begin to cook during the defrost cycle, raising the temperature to a point where bacteria can flourish.

Remove food from store wrap prior to thawing. Foam insulated trays and plastic wraps are not heat stable at high temperatures. They can melt or warp from the food’s heat, possibly causing chemicals to migrate into the food.

Don’t defrost or hold food at room temperature for more than two hours. It is easy to forget about a food item thawing in the microwave oven. Set a timer to sound an alert when the thawing time is up.


Debone large pieces of meat. Bone can shield the meat around it from thorough cooking.

Arrange food items uniformly in a covered dish and add a little liquid. Under the cover, steam helps kill bacteria and ensure uniform heating. Either plastic wrap or a glass cover works well. Many recipes suggest venting a small area, allowing some steam to escape. Plastic wrap shouldn’t touch the food.

Cook large pieces of meat at 50 percent power for longer periods of time. This allows the heat to reach deeper portions without overcooking outer areas. Commercial oven cooking bags can also help even out cooking and provide a tender product.

Move the food inside the dish several times during cooking. Stir soups or stews. If you don’t have a turntable, turn the entire dish during cooking. This is especially important for foods like casseroles that can’t be stirred.

Do not cook whole, stuffed poultry in the microwave. The bones and density of the bird do not allow even cooking. Microwaves may not thoroughly cook the moist stuffing deep inside the bird either.

Never partially cook food. If planning to combine microwave cooking with conventional roasting, broiling or grilling, transfer the microwaved foods to conventional heat immediately.

Use a temperature probe or meat thermometer to verify the food has reached a safe temperature. Check the temperature in several places, avoiding fat and bone. It should reach 160° for red meat, 180° for poultry.

Make allowances for oven wattage variations. Because ovens vary in power and operating efficiency, make sure food is done. Use a meat thermometer and visual signs to check doneness. Juices should run clear, and meat should not be pink.

Observe the standing time in the recipe. It is necessary to complete the cooking process.

Warming precooked foods

Cover precooked foods with microwave-safe plastic, waxed paper or a glass lid. This will keep moisture in and provide even cooking.

Heat leftovers and precooked food to at least 165 ° F. Food should be very hot to the touch and steaming before it is served.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline

The benefits of family style meal service

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The benefits of family style meal service

Family style meal service is an excellent way to provide children with the opportunity to serve themselves. Family style meal service also provides other benefits.

How do children benefit?

  • By practicing fine motor and coordination skills such as pouring, scooping and serving.

  • By learning to regulate portion sizes according to their own feelings of hunger and fullness.

  • By learning to share, take turns and socialize; thereby developing self-confidence and self-esteem because they are in control. Children are allowed to make choices.

  • By having fun in setting the table, preparing food and cleaning up.

Why do caregivers like family style meal service?

It allows them to:

  • Set an example for children by sitting at the same table and eating the same meal.

  • Initiate pleasant conversations with the children.

  • Develop an intimate, sharing, family like atmosphere.

  • Children should not be reprimanded if they do not taste or eat all the food on their plates. Instead, let the children know when the next meal will be served so they can make final decisions about whether to eat more. Also, try to focus on some positive aspect of the children’s eating behavior. For example, maybe a child tried the food by using another one of his or her senses rather than by tasting it; this can be acknowledged in a positive way.

  • Food left on plates should be thrown away without comment. Plate waste is a normal part of eating, especially when new foods are served or when children are new to the center or classroom. Plate waste can be reduced by serving meals family style.

Try these tips to help children serve themselves

  • You may want to start out by letting the children, especially younger ones, serve themselves something that is easy to serve. Try rolls or bread first. As the children develop skills, increase the number and types of items they serve themselves.

  • Pass the food around the table and encourage (but do not pressure or force) each child to put some on his or her plate.

  • Allow each child to decide what and how much of the food to eat.

  • Try not to worry that some children will take too little. On the other hand, if some children seem to be taking too much and not leaving enough for the other children, provide guidance.

Allowing children to help themselves does not mean caregivers cannot guide them. Encourage children to take some of all the foods served, but ask them to take only one serving at a time. Make sure the children know that there is enough food for them to have seconds later. This may help them take smaller servings the first time around. You might want to say something like, “If you aren’t sure you can eat it, take just a little bit. You can have more if it tastes good to you.” It’s also alright to let them know that they must leave enough for other children.

Serving size can be controlled by having the children use serving scoops, spoons or ladles that hold reasonable portion sizes. Remember to make sure the serving utensils are child-sized and that the children can handle them. Younger children may need you to actually physically assist or guide them in serving themselves.

Source: Feeding Children Responsively, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

read more:
USDA Instruction on Family Style Meal Service

Tips for safe food handling

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Safe food handling practices prevent food borne illnesses

Preparation and storage rules

  • Start with clean, wholesome food from reliable sources. Wash all raw fruits and vegetables before using.

  • Hold frozen food at 0º F or lower during delivery and storage.

  • Scrub and sanitize all cutting boards, knives and electric slicers immediately after contact with raw or cooked meats, fish or poultry.

  • Hold all potentially hazardous foods out of the danger zone, 40º F – 140º F. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

  • Reach an internal temperature of 165º F to 170º F for foods to be held for serving. Maintain a minimum temperature of 140º F during the serving period.

  • Re-pan in shallow containers any cooked food to be held at refrigerated temperatures. Refrigerate immediately. The center of the food should reach 40º F within four hours. To hasten cooling, space pans in the cooler to allow for adequate air circulation.

  • Never serve questionable food. If in doubt, throw it out.

  • Avoid cross-contamination of foods during preparation, storage and service.



  • Wash hands with soap and water. Hands must be washed when reporting to work, after handling raw poultry and meat, smoking, sneezing, using a handkerchief and after using the toilet

  • Keep all work surfaces clean and organized.

  • Keep the work area clean and all spills wiped up immediately.

  • Refrigerate promptly all unused foods.

  • Use clean equipment in preparing, cooking and serving food.

  • Avoid touching food as much as possible. Use the proper utensils.

  • Handle all utensils and serving equipment by handles and base to avoid touching areas that will later come in contact with the food.

  • Use a clean spoon to taste food.

  • Keep fingernails trimmed and clean. Scrub nails with a nail brush after a visit to the toilet and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.

  • Keep hair clean and use a hair net or other restraint.

  • Reassign employees with infected cuts or burns. These employees should not prepare food or handle equipment that will come in contact with food.

read more about safe food handling

Source: National Food Service Management Institute

Handwashing – the ultimate defense

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Handwashing – the ultimate defense

Did you know that washing your hands often and well is the single most important factor in preventing the spread of illness? When you forget to wash your hands, you can spread germs to the food you prepare, the surfaces you touch and the children you hold. Forming the hand washing habit can save a lot of suffering.

When should you wash your hands? Every time you turn around! At least it may seem that way when you read the following list:

Wash your hands . . .

  • before the children arrive

  • after any cleaning tasks

  • after coming in from outside play

  • after touching animals

  • after using the toilet

  • after using a tissue or handkerchief

  • after changing a diaper or helping a child toilet

  • after covering a cough or sneeze

  • after touching your face or hair

  • after smoking

  • after caring for a sick person

  • before beginning to cook

  • after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs

  • before and after you eat

How you wash your hands is also important. Run warm water over your hands and then apply soap. Lather up the soap on your hands and wrists, rubbing our hands together and making sure to wash well between your fingers. do this for at least 10 seconds. Rinse your hands well, from wrists to fingertips. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and then turn off the water with the paper towel. It is a good idea to apply lotion after washing your hands to prevent your skin from drying and cracking.

There are a lot of good antibacterial liquid soaps available now. Most come in a pump bottle for easy dispensing and are refillable. Having the children use this type of soap for washing their hands may help cut down on the spread of colds and other illnesses. Be sure to have the children wash their hands often too.

Taking care of children requires lots of “hands on” work. Think of all the times a day you help a child blow his nose, got to the bathroom or wash her face. If you wipe a nose and then serve snack without washing your hands, you may pass along a host of germs to other children and yourself. So wash often and well!

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Tips for preventing choking

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Tips for preventing choking

  • Hot dogs are the number one cause of choking in children. Quarter them lengthwise to reduce the risk of choking. If you serve a food which contains pieces of hot dogs, like beans and franks, quarter the pieces so that they are not circular. Other foods might also be modified to reduce the risk of choking.

  • Gradually build a child’s feeding skills; let him or her work up slowly to more difficult foods.

  • For the child under three, avoid foods that are hard to control in the mouth, chew and swallow, this includes nuts, raw carrots, gum drops and jelly beans. Do not serve hard candy, raw vegetables and fruits, grapes, raisins, seeds, corn, peanut butter, popcorn, pickles, nuts, olives or thick sticky cheese foods to children until after their two year molars have appear and they are chewing with them.

  • Always be present during feeding. Never let other children supervise.

  • Keep children seated while they are eating. Most choking occurs when children are on the run.

  • Keep things calm at eating times. When children scream or laugh they catch their breath and they could inhale food, causing them to choke.

Adapted from Promoting Wellness , Save the Children Child Care Support Center

Warning labels required on all untreated juices

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Warning labels required on all untreated juices

This news release was issued by the Food and Drug Administration on September 8, 1998.

Starting today, consumers will see warning statements at places where packaged fresh apple juice and apple cider products that have not been processed to prevent, reduce or eliminate illness-causing microbes are sold.

The warning statements will inform consumers of the potential risks posed by drinking unprocessed juices, particularly to children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems. The Food and Drug Administration is requiring this warning to coincide with the start of this apple juice and cider season.

All other unprocessed packaged fruit and vegetable juices will be required to have the warning statement by November 5, 1998. To allow flexibility in meeting this labeling requirement, FDA is permitting manufacturers to place the warning statement on signs and placards displayed at points-of-purchase for one year after the effective date of the rule.

These warning labels are part of a series of steps FDA is taking to enhance the safety of juices. If a packaged juice has not undergone pasteurization or a comparable treatment, consumers will see this warning statement: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.”

“Juices are a valuable part of a healthy diet, and people should be encouraged to enjoy them,” said HHS Secretary Donna Shalala. “This regulation is designed to alert the public about the risks we know could be present in the small minority of products that forego such protections.”

“Untreated juices are only about 2 percent of the total juice sold in the United States,” said Acting FDA Commissioner, Dr. Michael A. Friedman. “They are normally found at cider mills and farm markets, and less commonly at grocery stores. Today’s action will help consumers more easily identify these untreated juices and appreciate their possible risks.”

Untreated juices have been linked to an estimated 16,000 to 48,000 cases of food borne illness each year, including those associated with E. coli O157:H7 which have resulted in severe illness and even death. Healthy persons infected by bacteria such as E. Coli 0157:H7 may experience diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping or fever for several days. Children, the elderly, and those whose immune systems are suppressed due to cancer treatment, HIV infection or other significant health problems may develop severe or even life-threatening conditions if exposed to food borne pathogens that may be present in untreated juice products.

Although FDA does not require pasteurization to be declared on the labels of juices except for pasteurized orange juice, many pasteurized products are labeled “pasteurized.” Frozen concentrates, juices sold in sealed containers at room temperature, and many refrigerated juices are treated to eliminate harmful bacteria.

Parents of children in day-care centers and schools that serve cider and juice may want to ask if the products are pasteurized or otherwise treated to reduce or eliminate illness-causing microbes. Also, parents of children on field trips to apple cider mills or farm markets should be aware of FDA concerns about untreated juices and cider.

In an earlier action, FDA proposed to require manufacturers of most packaged fruit and vegetable juices to implement hazard control programs in their plants to prevent microbiological, chemical and physical contamination of their products.

The proposed required changes in the production process would consist of a scientifically designed program called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP.

HACCP identifies the steps in food production where contamination is reasonably likely to occur and then puts in place preventive controls. Under the proposed HACCP system, juice products would be pasteurized or otherwise treated to achieve a 100,000 fold reduction in the numbers of harmful microbes. These reductions would apply throughout the shelf life of the juices. If HACCP becomes a final regulation, the warning statements would not be necessary on juices that are produced under a valid HACCP plan since reductions in pathogens would already be achieved.

7 habits for food safety

Child & Adult Care Food Program

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7 highly effective habits for home food safety

by Alice Henneman , R.D., Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Note: Ms. Henneman reports that these are general consumer guidelines, which are usually higher than industry standards. She recommends you check with your local health department for standards and regulations that apply to your area.

They’re everywhere. They’re on your hands, on the kitchen counter, in the air. They’re the bacteria and other organisms that can cause food-borne illness IF FOOD ISN’T HANDLED PROPERLY. Once a food leaves the grocery store, the consumer becomes an important link in the food safety chain. Safely processed foods can become unsafe if mishandled in the home.

Help keep your food safe by following these seven habits for home food safety, adapted from guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). For more information, visit the FSIS web site at:

Habit 1: Hot or Cold Is How to Hold

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 degrees F. Food-borne bacteria multiply rapidly in this “zone,” doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.

Take perishable foods, such as meat, poultry and seafood products, home immediately after purchase. Place them in the refrigerator (40 degrees F or below) or freezer (0 degrees F) upon arrival. Buy a refrigerator/freezer thermometer at a variety, hardware, grocery or department store.

Monitor temperatures on a regular basis. When holding hot foods, keep them at an internal temperature of 140 degrees F or higher.

At events such as buffets where food is set out for guests, serve smaller bowls of food and set out fresh food bowls as needed. For added safety, put foods on ice or over a heat source to keep them out of the temperature “Danger Zone.” Replace with a plate of fresh food, rather than adding food to other food already on a plate.

Habit 2: Don’t Be a Dope, Wash with Soap

Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. This is especially important when handling raw meat, poultry or seafood products. Bacteria can be spread all over your kitchen just by not washing your hands properly.

Habit 3:  Watch That Plate, Don’t Cross-contaminate

“Cross contamination” occurs when bacteria transfer from one food to another through a shared surface.  Don’t let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with already cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw.

For example, when grilling, avoid putting cooked meat on the plate that held the raw meat.  After cutting a raw chicken, clean the cutting board with hot, soapy water. Follow with hot rinse water before cutting greens for a salad.

Place packages of raw meat, poultry or fish on plates on lower shelves of refrigerators to prevent their juices from dripping on other foods.

Habit 4: Make it a Law – Use the Fridge to Thaw

Never thaw (or marinate) meat, poultry or seafood on the kitchen counter. It is best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Small items may thaw overnight. Larger foods may take longer — allow approximately one day for every 5 pounds of weight.

For faster thawing, place food in a leak proof plastic bag and immerse the bag in cold water. Change the water about every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. After thawing, refrigerate the food until it’s ready to use. Food thaws in cold water at the rate of approximately 1 pound per half hour.

If food is thawed in the microwave, cook it right away. Unlike food thawed in a refrigerator, microwave-thawed foods reach temperatures that encourage bacterial growth. Cook immediately to kill any bacteria that may have developed and to prevent further bacterial growth.

Habit 5: More than Two Is Bad for You

Never leave perishable food at room temperature over two hours. Perishable foods include raw and cooked meat, poultry and seafood products. Once fruits and vegetables are cut, it is safest to also limit their time at room temperature.

If perishable food is left at room temperature for over two hours, bacteria can grow to harmful levels and the food may no longer be safe. The two hour limit includes preparation time as well as serving time.

On a hot day with temperatures at 90 degrees F or warmer, your “safe use time” decreases to one hour.

Habit 6: Don’t Get Sick, Cool it Quick

One of the most common causes of food-borne illness is improper cooling of cooked foods. Remember — bacteria are everywhere. Even after food is cooked to a safe internal temperature, bacteria can be reintroduced to food from many sources and then can reproduce. 

Put leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer promptly after eating. As Habit 5 stresses, refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Put foods in shallow containers so they cool faster. 

For thicker foods — such as stews, hot puddings and layers of meat slices — limit food depth to 2 inches.

Habit 7: Cook it Right Before You Take a Bite

Always cook perishable foods thoroughly. If harmful bacteria are present, only thorough cooking will destroy them. Freezing or rinsing foods in cold water is not enough to destroy bacteria. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following food preparation temperatures (How Temperatures Affect Food, May 1997):

When roasting meat and poultry, use an oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F. Cook ground meats (beef, veal, lamb and pork) to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, and ground poultry to 165 degrees F. Steaks and roasts cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F are medium rare, 160 degrees F are medium, and 170 degrees F are well done.

For doneness, poultry breast meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F; 180 F for whole birds. Use a meat thermometer to assure that meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature.

When you cut into thoroughly cooked meat, there should be no trace of pink in the juices. When poultry is pierced with a fork, the juices should be clear, not pink. 

If raw meat and poultry have been mishandled (left in the “Danger Zone” too long — see Habit 1), bacteria may grow and produce heat-resistant toxins that can cause food-borne illness.

WARNING: If meat and poultry are mishandled when raw, they may not be safe to eat even after proper cooking.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

Remember this phrase whenever you have a question about food safety and are unsure if the seven safe food habits have been followed. Many bacteria that commonly cause food-borne illness can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. A food-borne illness may develop within 1/2 hour to a few days; some may occur as long as two or more weeks after eating a contaminated food. 

“But, I tasted it and I was OK” you may say. Be aware that different people have different tolerance levels for bacteria. The very young, older people and persons who are already ill are more susceptible to a food-borne illness.

Always remember, WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

Reprinted with permission from: Food Reflections E-mail Newsletter , University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County  

Remember children’s needs for proper nutrition

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Remember children’s needs for proper nutrition

Scenario: You have a three year old in your care who has refused to drink orange juice for a week. He says that only milk will do because he only likes “white” food – and orange juice isn’t white.

This kind of unpredictable and unusual eating behavior is very common among preschool children aged two to five year. In fact, many parents of preschoolers feel that meal and snack times frequently turn into struggles for control over what to eat, how much to eat, and even when to eat.

Feeding your preschooler does not have to involve endless discussions, demands or screaming bouts. All you need is some understanding, patience and trust.

One of the most basic truths about your preschooler is that she or he is a child – not an adult in kid’s clothing.

Children have different physical and emotional needs than adults. These differences apply to the type and amount of food they eat, as well as to their behavior at eating time. Realizing that these differences exist, and that they are normal and healthy for your child, can help you to minimize tensions centered aroundf ood. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Children need smaller portions than adults. Approximately one tablespoon of each type of food for every year of the child’s age is an ample portion size in most cases. For example, a three year old’s plate might contain three tablespoons of chicken, three tablespoons of rice and three tablespoons of mixed vegetables (see CACFP meal pattern chart for required amounts for reimbursable meals).

Children need to snack throughout the day in addition to being offered regularly scheduled meals. Try to discourage large snacks or beverages other than water when it is close to meal time. This way, your preschooler will be hungry enough to eat with the rest of the family.

Children are different from adults in that they are growing and developing rapidly. This means that they have increased needs for calories and nutrients that must be met by adequate amounts of food in a balanced and varied diet. It’s not necessary to eliminate any foods from your child’s diet – even the higher fat ones. Just serve them in moderation and balance them with more frequent servings of other lower-fat choices.

While it is important to keep the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol at recommended levels in your preschooler’s diet, don’t go overboard. Without enough calories and nutrients, your child cannot grow and develop to his or her full potential.

Young children may be suspicious of new foods and recipes. Give preschoolers time to try out a new food. If it doesn’t go over with a bag at first, try it several times more over the course of several months before declaring the dish a disaster.

The form a food takes can frequently determine whether or not it gets eaten. For example, it isn’t uncommon for raw, crunch vegetables to be preferred over soft, hot ones. Foods that can be eaten with the fingers usually find their way into the mouths of children more frequently than those needing utensils. To avoid choking, cut foods that are hard to chew into very small pieces for younger children.

While children need protection and direction in many areas, they also know best when it comes to regulating what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. Studies have shown that over time, preschool children can and do construct diets with enough calories and nutrients when they are allowed to make their own food choices from a variety of foods. Children have their own internal signals for hunger, satiety and nutrient needs that can guide them to make appropriate decisions about food.

Does this mean that our two to five year olds should be on their own when it comes to nutrition? Not at all. Experts agree that it is the parents’ responsibility to provide balanced, varied and tasty meals and snacks for their children. But forcing preschoolers to try every food or clean their plates is not helpful and may be harmful to the children’s future eating behaviors.

Your role consists of offering your preschooler choices from among the different food groups. Don’t be disappointed or upset if he or she doesn’t sample or finish all of them. Remember, offer a balanced, varied and tasty diet, but try not to force food choices.

Adapted from: Nutrition Update

Drink plenty of water

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

A summer time prescription – cool, clear water

Are your children ever cranky or do they complain of headaches or nausea, especially after playing outside on a hot, humid Nebraska afternoon? If this sounds familiar, they may be showing symptoms of dehydration. Children’s bodies are not as efficient in thermal regulation as are adults. They produce more body heat yet they perspire less which may result in dehydration. Prevention or treatment of dehydration is simple, easy to acquire, and very economical: drink plenty of water!

Water is the most important, yet most often forgotten, nutrient needed to maintain healthy bodies. Not only does it transport nutrients through the body and helps remove wastes, it replaces the body water used to remove the heat from the body through sweating and evaporation. If this water is not replaced, the sweating mechanism can shut down, resulting in heat stroke or even death.

Here are some tips to remember this summer:

  • Provide a glass of water with meals and snacks. A common misconception of caregivers is that milk or juice must be served at snacks. Serve water along with the two snack components if a beverage is needed. This is not only more economical, but it provides a great opportunity to create a healthy eating habit.

  • Encourage children to drink water often, especially before, during and after playing outside. Have water and glasses easily accessible to the children outside so they can help themselves.

  • Allow children to acclimate gradually. Don’t expect them to play outside for two straight hours on the first day the temperature reaches 100 degrees. Children may need up to two weeks to get used to high temperatures and humidity.

  • Dress children in light, loose fitting clothes exposing as much skin as possible (but make sure they are protected with waterproof sunscreen) to allow for body cooling to take place through perspiration and evaporation.

  • Set a good example – make sure you drink plenty of water.

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