How to: Food Handler Tips to Avoid Flu Season
DATE: 8th November, 2016
Whether or not you’re food handler certified, there are many reasons to adhere to safe food handling practices--flu season being one of them. According to the World Health Organization, the flu affects a reported 3-5 million people per year, globally. So we’re breaking down how to best weather the ailments and keep yourself in top shape.
- Safe minimum temperature for meats. This is an easy one. When you’re cooking meats, the lowest temperature you can safely cook at is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this comes with a very important addendum because different meats need to be cooked at varying degrees. So to be more specific:
- Ground meat & meat mixtures = 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Beef, veal, lamb = 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pork and ham = 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Egg dishes = 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Seafood = 145 degrees Fahrenheit or until shells open during cooking
- Don’t mix your vegetable cutting board with your meat cutting board. It’s highly recommended that you use a plastic cutting board for your meats and a wooden cutting board for your vegetables. If you’re using a wood cutting board for both, please be sure to wash under high-pressure, very hot water to destroy the bacteria, and then follow up with a bleach or a similar disinfectant. Throw away any cutting boards that have cracks in them.
- Always wash your hands. A good rule of thumb here is to wash for 15-20 seconds, or for the entirety of the Happy Birthday song. Always dry off with a paper towel, never cloth. This goes for before, after, and during meal prep, especially when there’s raw meat involved.
- Freezing temperature for foods. According to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, “keep your freezer at zero degrees (0°) or below to maintain the quality of frozen foods. Most foods will maintain good quality longer if the freezer temperature is -10 to -20°F. At temperatures between 0 and 32°F, food deteriorates more rapidly.”
- Always pay attention to expiration dates. Even if you’re days before the expiration date, proceed with caution. If there is no expiration or sell by date listed, and you’re unsure, throw it away. You can never be too cautious when it comes to the ripeness of your foods. If it’s canned but the expiration date looks okay, please still be careful and check for rust marks, dents, or any other ways by which air could have possibly gotten in. In general, be safe, throw it away.
- Stay hydrated! This is a no-brainer. Our bodies are made up of about 65 percent water, so by simply staying hydrated, you’re giving your heart, your joints, your brain the tools needed to keep up with the craziness of daily life, even as things cool down for the winter.
While these tips will help to avoid the flu, these are also just tips meant to help keep you healthy in your daily life. There are so many other tips we could dive into, but when it comes to the healthiest, safest methods for food prep, we’ve got you covered, no matter the weather. For more information, check out the CDC website and stay safe!