All along the food chain, from farm to food companies to our local grocery stores and restaurants, following food safety regulations helps to minimize the risks of a foodborne illness. But, it shouldn’t stop there. We, too, need to follow these best practices.
In this blog series, we focused on the four best practices for food safety; CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK and, today’s topic, CHILL.
Do you know the temperature of your refrigerator? Your freezer? CHILLing foods to cold temperatures slows the growth of harmful bacteria. So, we can reduce the risk of a foodborne illness by keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and a freezer temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit or below. But, it doesn’t stop there.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, preferred practices to CHILL foods for safety include:
- Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing.
- Refrigerate foods within one hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Never thaw food at room temperature. Using your countertop to thaw foods is not food-safe. Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. A word of caution: if you choose to use cold water or the microwave, you need to immediately cook the food item.
- When packing leftovers for storage, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
Follow this simple rule when deciding on proper cooling practices: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. “Hot” means 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above, while “cold” means 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And—yes, you guessed it—break out your food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food item. Food pathogens multiply rapidly if left in the “Danger Zone” (40-140 F) for more than two hours, or one hour if the room or outside temperature is 90 degrees or above.
One last thought. There are two kinds of foodborne bacteria: one that spoils our foods and one that can make us ill. It’s always a good idea to be familiar with both. But, it’s critical that you practice safe food handling guidelines so that you keep yourself, family and guests safe all the time.