by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging
Happy Thanksgiving. As we look forward to a delicious meal with all the trimmings, we should be aware of one important component — food safety.
When it comes to food, time is not on your side. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website there are guidelines in place that, if followed, should help keep your food safe to consume:
• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing.
• Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the countertop. It is safe to thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. But if you do thaw food in cold water or in the microwave, you should cook it immediately.
• Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
There are important food preparations guidelines to follow while cooking:
• Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, time to sing Happy Birthday twice, before and after handling food.
• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each dish, before working with the next food.
• Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. Dish cloths can pick up germs and bacteria and just spread them around. And put your wet sponge in the microwave for 60 seconds to disinfect. Be careful when removing it because it will be hot.
• When washing produce it’s best to wash fruits and vegetables with a veggie wash, available in the produce section of the grocery story. It will get your produce clean as a whistle.
• Wash the lids of canned foods because all the grime from the grocery store settles on it. How many times have you fished out the lid from the can after opening?
For more information, go to fsis.usda.gov and type in “food safety for older adults” in the search bar.
Now, let’s talk turkey. When cooking the bird turkey, insert a meat thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast, being careful not to touch the bone. The turkey is done when it reaches 180 degrees. The stuffing should be 165 degrees. Then serve your guests and put the turkey in the refrigerator.
And speaking of stuffing, if your personal recipe calls for oysters make sure they have been properly refrigerated or iced, especially if you’re serving people with weakened immune systems or liver disorders, as they have an increased risk of becoming ill from improperly stored seafood. To be especially safe, cook the stuffing outside the turkey.
If you plan to send food, tell the recipient when it will arrive. It may ruin the surprise but it’s better than risking spoilage. If your gift is perishable, it should be quite cold when it arrives, be unpacked immediately and refrigerated.
Cheese is another holiday treat that is nutritious and delicious but be careful of the soft ones, which are typically not processed, such as feta, brie, camembert, and blue-veined. Before you pile one of these on a cracker, check to see if it is cold. If not, opt for the cheddar.
Most of all have a great holiday season.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
For information, call 941-2865, or 800-432-7812, or go to EAAA.org.