Food Prep And Storage Safety Emphasized As More Families Cook And Eat At Home

By Betsy Finklea
Many families are cooking at home now more than ever due to COVID-19.
Janice Lopez-Munoz, Public Affairs Specialist for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, spoke to the Dillon Herald recently about the best practices for food safety during preparation, with leftovers, and with take-out food. Lopez-Munoz said following these practices will help prevent food poisoning.
Lopez-Munoz said people need to adhere to the four food safety basics: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
The first food safety basic step is clean. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds. Lather the soap, rinse hands with clean water, and dry your hands with a clean towel.
Lopez-Munoz said to clean countertops and surfaces. When handling raw meat, she says to wash your hands and clean countertops and areas which come in contact with the raw meat.
Separate is the next food safety basic step. She said it is very important to separate raw meat from cooked meat. She said not to cross-contaminate.“Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food,” according to the USDA-FSIS. “After cutting raw meats, wash the cutting board, knife, and countertops with hot, soapy water.”
Cook is the third food safety basic step. Lopez-Munoz suggest using a food thermometer. The temperature depends on the type of meat.
Poultry, such as chicken, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steak, chops, and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground meat such as raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chill is the fourth food safety basic step. With the resurgence of cooking at home comes producing and eating more leftovers. Leftovers should be promptly refrigerated after eating.
Food should not be left out for more than two hours at room temperature.
Leftover food should not be placed in shallow containers and placed in shallow containers and placed immediately in the refrigerator for rapid cooling. Cooked leftovers should be eaten within four days. Here are some guidelines for refrigerating and freezing common leftovers:
ITEM REFRIGERATE FREEZE
Gravy and meat broth 3-4 days 2-3 months
Chicken or turkey whole 1-2 days 1 year
Chicken or turkey pieces 1-2 days 9 months
Fried chicken 3-4 days 4 months
Cooked poultry casseroles 3-4 days 4-6 months
Poultry pieces, plain 3-4 days 4 months
Chicken nuggets, patties 3-4 days 1-3 months
Pizza, cooked 3-4 days 1-2 months,
Hamburger/stew meat 1-2 days 3-4 months
Steaks 3-5 days 6-12 months
Chops 3-5 days 4-6 months
Roasts 3-5 days 4-12 months

Lopez-Munoz said a very nice tool to help consumers use food at its best quality and to reduce food waste is the USDA’s Foodkeeper app. She said the FoodKeeper app helps consumers with food and beverage storage and helps them determine the maximum freshness and quality. She said people can keep food fresh longer if their food is stored properly. This app can be downloaded.
Takeout has also become more popular lately. Lopez-Munoz said when eating takeout to follow the same steps emphasizing that people should thoroughly wash hands and eat within two hours of the time food is left at room temperature.
If you order food, but want to eat later, Lopez-Munoz suggests putting that food in the refrigerator and re-heating the food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit with a food thermometer.
Practicing a few basic steps can help you and your family stay will while cooking or eating takeout at home.