Health Department cautions about food poisoning

Each year, some 48 million Americans get sick by eating contaminated food or drinks, and 3,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the summer months, with more cooking done on grills and meals packed in coolers for picnics, the likelihood increases that food will be improperly prepped, cooked, stored or left out in the sun, allowing bacteria
to grow.

“Illness-causing microorganisms can be present in a number of foods, so keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold,” advised Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, the interim Putnam County health commissioner. He offered these tips:

  • Cook meat to at least 130 degrees (for a rare steak), chicken to 165 degrees, hamburger to 158 degrees and fish to 140 degrees. Do not rely on the color of the meat juices for determining doneness. Instead, check the food’s internal temperature with a stem thermometer in the center.
  • Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees or slightly lower to store foods including eggs, milk, meats, chicken, seafood, cooked leftovers, gravies, soups, or products with these ingredients. Discard food if temperature exceeds 40 degrees for longer than two hours.
  • Fruits, vegetables, juices, and cheeses may be stored above 40 degrees for a limited time. Check appearance, odor, texture and color before serving or eating.
  • If food is to be held longer than two hours before eating, keep hot foods at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or lower. To keep foods hot, use a heat source underneath the food, and to keep foods chilled, have the cooling source/ice packs on top of foods.
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately after cooling. Use a wide shallow container for faster cooling. Reheat leftovers only once to 165 degrees or above.
  • Select frozen and refrigerated products last when shopping. Refrigerate or freeze these items immediately upon arriving home.
  • Cook from frozen, or defrost in the refrigerator. Never thaw frozen foods at room temperature.
  • When in doubt about whether food should be eaten, throw it out.

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