Food Safety Tips

“Food Safety Tips,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 64–65

Food Safety Tips

I’m in a hurry. Can I thaw meat on the counter? I forgot to refrigerate my food after dinner. Can I still eat it? As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked questions such as these. Not only do we want to reduce the chance of spreading food-borne illness to our family members, but we also want to provide safe meals or refreshments for Church activities. Since we can’t see, smell, or taste many microorganisms that may be on food, it’s important that we follow these tips to keep food safe.

  1. Keep it clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before preparing and serving foods. Clean and sanitize work surfaces, equipment, and utensils. You can make a sanitizing solution with one tablespoon of bleach and one gallon of lukewarm water.

  2. Thaw food properly. Thawing food in the refrigerator is safe. Large foods, such as turkey, take 24 hours for every five pounds to thaw. After thawing, meat and poultry should be used within three to four days. Foods can be thawed in the microwave if they are cooked immediately after thawing. Never thaw food on the counter or defrost in hot water.

  3. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods. Sanitize utensils and cutting boards between uses to limit the transfer of bacteria from one food to another. Place raw meat on the lowest refrigerator shelf so raw meat juices do not drip onto other foods.

  4. Cook foods thoroughly. A thermometer is the only way to tell if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. The following temperatures (given first in Fahrenheit) are recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

    • 145 degrees (63 C.): beef, lamb, and veal steaks and roasts (medium rare)

    • 160 degrees (71 C.): ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal; pork chops, ribs, and roasts; egg dishes

    • 165 degrees (74 C.): ground turkey and chicken, stuffing and casseroles, leftovers

    • 170 degrees (77 C.): chicken and turkey breasts

    • 180 degrees (82 C.): chicken and turkey (whole bird or legs, thighs, and wings)

    For Church activities, prepare and cook food thoroughly at home. Meetinghouse kitchens should be used primarily for reheating and serving food.

  5. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When serving foods at a buffet, barbecue, or large dinner, keep the hot food over a heat source and the cold food on ice. After thorough cooking, hot food should maintain a temperature above 140 degrees (60 C.) and cold food below 40 degrees (4 C.). If you need to transport perishable food, carry it in a cooler with a cold pack or ice or in an insulated carrier with a heat pack.

  6. Promptly refrigerate leftovers. Cold temperatures keep bacteria from growing and multiplying. Remember the two-hour rule: never leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. If you are outside and the temperature is above 90 degrees (32 C.), food should not be left out for more than one hour.

For easy referral, post this information on the back of a cupboard door or in a favorite recipe book. Most cases of food-related illnesses can be prevented if we remember to prepare and store our food properly.

Pauline Williams, Copper Hills Fourth Ward, West Jordan Utah Copper Hills Stake

Illustrated by Joe Flores