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Notorious Virus is Theme for National Food Safety Month
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September is designated as Food Safety month, so it is a perfect time to share information about a new campaign. National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 to heighten the awareness of food safety education. Each year, new materials are created to help reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures. This year’s theme for National Food Safety Month is “Notorious Virus!” This play on words makes us think about a leading cause of foodborne illness – Norovirus. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. It spreads easily and is often called the stomach flu. It transmits easily as it survives on surfaces that have been contaminated or from an infected person. Handwashing is the best defense against Norovirus.
Consumers of all ages need to improve their safe food handling practices. With only 61 percent of Americans following all package cooking instructions, and even less using a food thermometer (19 percent), this is a unique opportunity to help educate and inform consumers to “Cook It Safe.”
Pre-prepared meals are fast and convenient by design, but not taking the time to read the cooking instructions on the package can lead to undercooking. Not all of these foods can be cooked to a safe temperature in a microwave. Food poisoning can occur when food is not cooked evenly to a safe internal temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria that might be present.
Frozen convenience foods may appear ready-to-eat and simply in need of being reheated, but many contain raw products that must be fully cooked before eating. Reading the product’s label should inform consumers whether the product needs to be reheated or thoroughly cooked. The package may convey, for example, that the product contains uncooked meat or poultry. If the package instructions for microwave cooking call for covering or stirring the food or allowing a “stand time” do not ignore these steps, which contribute to even cooking. Covering food traps moisture and raises the temperature, while stirring prevents cold spots where bacteria can survive. “Stand time” is the time between removal from a heat source and consumption, when food continues to cook for a few minutes. Skipping these key parts of cooking instructions may allow bacteria to survive and lead to foodborne illness.
Get in the habit of using a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature. It is a good idea to test the food in several places. This applies when cooking in microwaves or any other heat source. The safe internal temperatures that will ensure bacteria are killed in different types of food are:
• Whole cuts of fresh beef, pork, veal and lamb: 145 degrees F, followed by three minutes of stand time.
• Fish: 145 degrees F.
• Ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb: 155 degrees F.
• All poultry, ground or whole: 165 degrees F.
• Leftovers and casseroles: 165 degrees F.
• Fruit, vegetables, grains (including rice & pasta) and beans that will be hot held: 135 degrees F.
For more information about food safety feel free to give me a call at the Barton County Extension office.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. She may be reached at (620)793-1910 or