Food Alert

“Food Alert! is a treasure chest of historical fact and modern science dished up in a nourishing menu of statistics, illustrations and common sense we can use to protect our food supply–and ourselves–against common food-borne diseases. This book belongs in every kitchen, right next to your favorite recipe books.” –Carol Ann Rinzler, Author of Nutrition for Dummies and The New Complete Book of Food

With estimates that nearly 100 million cases of food-related illnesses and several thousand food-related deaths take place each year in the United States, there is little doubt that the dangers of food-borne disease are on the rise. You may even have been a victim and not known it. From the moment of initial production to the time it reaches your table, food is at constant risk of contamination. Food Alert! provides everything you need to know to protect yourself and your family. It includes:

detailed descriptions of the key food groups and the contaminants that affect each one
special tips on handling, preparing and storing food, including checklists of the 20 most common causes of contamination in the kitchen
how to recognize the symptoms of a food-borne illness
a special reference section detailing the different food-borne pathogens, how they thrive, how they harm you and how you can stop them
Complete with a glossary and a directory of information sources, Food Alert! is an indispensable resource for anyone concerned about their health and the quality of their food.
Morton Satin is a molecular biologist, a recognized authority in the international food industry and an expert in the field of food safety. He has written numerous publications and articles on food safety and food processing technology for both professional and general readers. He has won several awards for his contributions to the food industry, and has served as a staff member and consultant to governments, expert committees, international organizations and trade associations. He lives in Rome, Italy.

The following is an excerpt from the book: Food Alert!: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety by Morton Satin, taken from the chapter on Self-Help
Published by Checkmark Books/Facts On File, Inc.; 0-8160-3936-4; $14.95US
Copyright © 1999 Morton Satin


Most practices involved in preventing food-borne diseases in the home are little more than common sense and may appear to be trivial. They do, however, constitute the difference between good and poor home practice. The following lists were designed for you to check off, so that you can have an idea of how you rate. Before starting out, it may be worthwhile to take a look at a list of the materials and gadgets you will need to comply with good handling and good sanitation practices.

Food Preparation and Consumption
Check of each method you use when preparing and consuming foods:

· raw eggs in their shells are a high-risk food and should not be consumed without fully cooking them–soft-boiled, sunny-side up and any cooked form of eggs where liquid yolk remains may still contain Salmonella–mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, homemade ice cream and any food containing raw eggs should not be consumed by anyone who is even slightly immunocompromised–pasteurized liquid egg or egg replacement products can be used for these purposes–a letter in the British Medical Journal recommends that recipes and magazine articles about cooking should never recommend the consumption of foods containing raw eggs
· defrost foods overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave according to instructions–foods should not be left out for long periods in the kitchen to defrost because that will promote the growth of microorganisms

· plan the sequence and strategy of your cooking–you will be better organized, you will make better use of space and utensils and it will prevent cross contamination of foods and needless exposure to incorrect temperatures

· avoid all contact between raw and cooked foods

· make sure foods are thoroughly defrosted before cooking, and make sure they are cooked throughout–a minimum internal temperature of 155oF should be reached for beef and lamb, 160oF for pork and 175oF for poultry

· although those cute little pop-up timers that come with some turkeys are quite accurate as far as temperature is concerned, they penetrate only to a limited depth so that they do not actually reflect the same amount of doneness for different-sized turkeys–they work well for birds up to 10 pounds–above that, use a good-quality meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the meat

· use clean, sharp knives and a cutting board that is easy to clean (plastic or tempered glass is best)–discard the cutting board when it is so used that normal cleaning will not remove all the residues–never allow residues on the cutting board from one food to contaminate another food–this is a very common way for cross contamination to occur

· do not allow anyone to taste foods before they are fully cooked–no tasting of cake or cookie batters that contain raw eggs–no tasting of raw or partially cooked gefilte fish or fish soup (taste and season them after they are cooked)–do not be tempted to eat while cooking or barbecuing

· sashimi, sushi, steak tartare, oysters, seviche, lightly smoked products and all other uncooked animal-based products pose a great risk–adventuresome consumers should be prepared to pay the piper

· wash all raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly

· wash hands frequently while preparing foods and particularly well after a visit to the washroom

· never prepare foods if you have open cuts or wounds of any type–wear gloves if you must–never smoke at the same time as you are preparing food–pin back long hair–all this is done in an army field kitchen, it is the least you can do at home

· make sure the lids of cans are clean before opening them because dust and dirt can easily enter during the opening process–keep the cutting blades of the can opener clean to prevent contamination

· when you barbecue foods, remember that everything that is not cooked is contaminated–if you use a plate to bring raw foods to the barbecue, do not use the same plate to bring the cooked products back unless you have thoroughly washed and dried it–keep the turning spatula near the coals for a short period before you remove products from the grill to ensure that you do not recontaminate a cooked product

· if any product smells bad, cooking will not improve it–throw it out

· eat foods as soon as possible after they are cooked–do not let them stand around–if they are not to be consumed immediately, keep hot foods hot (140oF or above) and cold foods cold (45oF or less)

· do not cut corners when microwaving foods–follow manufacturer’s directions carefully, and observe all resting or standing periods

· when foods are required to be reheated, bring them to a minimum temperature of 160oF to 165oF–you can use a thermometer to be sure

· refrigerate foods destined to be leftovers immediately after eating–not after washing the dishes, but immediately–place them into shallow containers to ensure rapid cooling–do not stack one container over the other as this will slow cooling considerably–refrigerator manufacturers should make racks capable of holding warm plates–refrigerated foods should be consumed within three to four days (unless they are frozen)

· when preparing spicy or aromatic foods that may end up as stored leftovers (such as basmati rice pilaf), make sure the spices and herbs receive high-heat treatment (prefrying in oil) prior to adding rice–natural spices or herbs can contain high loads of microbial spores that can be very resistant to simple cooking or simmering and pose a risk if they start growing in great numbers

· avoid foods susceptible to Listeria (for example, unpasteurized soft cheeses), and remember that this bacteria can multiply at refrigeration temperatures

· if anybody insists that a little bit of dirt is good for you, take them out to the garden, and have them swallow a thimbleful of the stuff

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