With the holidays comes parties. Of course the main attraction is the food spread. Recently my daughter attended an all night party but the next day called me asking for advise on how to manage nausea. I gave her the list of things to help settle her stomach but unfortunately when she made it home nothing worked. As I’m comforting her on the bathroom floor she received several text messages from other party friends who were also sick. First thing comes to mind is food poisoning. We went down the list of food served that could have been possible culprits. The two that stood out were the mashed potatoes and the eggnog. The mashed potatoes was a leftover from a previous party six days earlier!! (Red flag) The ingredient added to the potatoes was ranch dressing. Two things came to mind were potentially hazardous food and the amount of time this food sat out in an unsafe temperature zone. The eggnog was commercially produced but I questioned the expiration date and time and temp it sat out as well. No one went to the ER so food poisoning versus a 24 hour virus was ever diagnosed.
When it comes to food one can never be too cautious . The three main causes of food borne illness are time-temperature abuse, cross-contamination, and poor personal hygiene. There are basic practices that need to be followed with each of these areas.The first thing is to be aware of what foods are common causes of foodborne illness (potentially hazardous foods):
- Foods that are slightly acidic or with a neutral pH (most of the food we eat)
- Foods that contain protein (meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs)
- Foods that contain a good amount of water, including fruits and vegetables
- Any food that is served raw or uncooked
To prevent foodborne illness:
- Keep hot food hot and cold foods cold
- Store cold foods at <41’F
- Cook hot foods to a proper temperature (temperature varies depending on food)
- Hold hot foods at the proper temperature before and after meal service (135’F or higher)
- Cool hot foods quickly and correctly.
- Reheat cooked foods to at least 165’F
- Keep food out of the temperature “danger zone” whenever possible (41’F to 135’F)
Preventing cross-contamination (spreading of bacteria from one food to another).
- Store meats on bottom shelf of refrigerators and freezers to prevent f juice from dripping on other foods
- Sanitize utensils and cutting surfaces when switching from meats to other foods
- Keep raw foods completely separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods
Practice good personal hygiene
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water after using restroom, smoking,eating, drinking, switching from raw to cooked food, blowing your nose, or touching your skin
- Do not cough, sneeze, or spit on food, or eat in the food preparation area.
Keeping foods safe is critical to preventing illness carried to people by food. Morale to the story for my daughter is – be cautious when served the same food item served from a previous party that’s over 24 hours old and considered potentially hazardous!!
Signature Joanne Slyter, dietitian, Westminster, CO Interest in food safety and sanitation