Garden View: Keep food safety in mind for the holidays

BY BARBARA STORZ

With the busy holiday season fast approaching, it is good to remember food safety. We need to be mindful of children, who do not have fully developed immune systems, and the elderly, who are likely to have comprised immune systems. These two groups are especially sensitive to food-borne illness.

Approximately 48 million Americans, 1 in 6, will become sick from food-borne diseases each year and approximately 3,000 people will die. The percentage of serious cases of food-borne illness is higher in children and the elderly. Here are some tips for keeping everyone safe:

>> Wash all produce in cool running water. Check fruits and vegetables for mold, cuts and bruises. Do not use soap or bleach on any produce.

>> Wash hands and surfaces with soap and water often to prevent any spread of bacteria.

>> Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods. It is best to have separate cutting boards for raw foods and foods that are ready to eat. It is also best to use separate cutting boards for meat and produce. When serving many kinds of foods, consider using “Disposable Cutting Sheets” on top of clean cutting boards to reduce the number of cutting boards in use.

>> Cook foods at safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to be sure chicken or turkey is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and ground beef is cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Roasts, steaks and chops should be prepared to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit with an additional three-minute rest period after removing from the heat. Sauces, beans and soups should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

>> Refrigerate food promptly — within 30 minutes from purchase for perishable food and two hours after cooking. If you have large pots of cooked food to put away, do not store in the refrigerator in the cooking pot. Break down the portions into smaller containers and store the smaller containers, which will cool down fast enough to be safe.

>> Avoid risky foods with the elderly and young children, such as soft cheeses made with raw milk, raw or undercooked eggs, raw meat, poultry, or fish in their juices. Avoid peanuts and other foods that may cause allergic reactions. Throw away any foods that are past their expiration date.

Keep everyone safe this holiday season. You can find more information about food safety at https://foodsafety.tamu.edu/home-food-safety. You can also pick up tip sheets on food safety from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in Firemen’s Park on the corner of 1st Street and Business 83 in McAllen.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her gardening show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio. Email her at bstorz@rcommunications.com.