For the week of May 1, 2017 

Tried and true

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

Seems some in our society today remain anxious about the food they buy and serve to their families. While it’s not a recent phenomenon, questions about food safety are bound to occur.

 While some food safety problems occur on the farm, many more occur in the kitchen where food can be mishandled or poorly prepared. Keeping food safe is everyone’s business. Yours and mine.

The way we handle, store and cook food can mean the difference between a satisfying meal and a bout with E. coli or salmonella. Keeping food safe in our diet requires a few tried and true steps. Keep food clean, keep it separate, cook it completely and always chill it.

When shopping, keep eggs and raw meat items separate in your grocery cart from foods that do not need to be cooked.  Avoid cross contamination.

To prevent raw meat and poultry from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking, enclose individual packages of raw meat or poultry in plastic bags. Position packages of raw meat or poultry in your shopping cart so their juices cannot drip on other food.

When purchasing products labeled keep refrigerated, do so only if they are stored in a refrigerated case and cold to the touch. Buy frozen products only if they are frozen solid. Never buy something that feels mushy.

As a wise and safety-conscious shopper, it is our responsibility to keep food safe once it leaves our local grocery store or meat market. Always shop for perishables last. Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they will remain cold.

Place perishables in the coolest part of your car during the trip home. Pack them in an ice chest if the time from store to home refrigerator will be more than one hour.

You can prevent E. coli infection by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding unpasteurized milk, and by washing hands carefully before preparing or eating food.

Cook eggs to at least at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Completely cooked, is completely safe.

Fruits and vegetables should be washed well, but washing may not remove all contamination. Keep a separate cutting board for raw meats and another for food preparation does not require cooking, such as salads. Again, this simple step helps avoid cross contamination.

Keep food chilled. Meat, lettuce and eggs should be stored in a refrigerator that is between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Minimize the time in and out of your fridge. It is difficult to keep the temperature constant, especially if you have a family that continuously opens the door.

Never leave perishable food products sitting out on the counter. Put them in the refrigerator once you’ve served them. The rule is that if perishable food is left two hours at room temperature, it should be discarded.

While most of these tips sound simple, a common-sense approach the next time you shop and cook could ensure safer food for your family.

 John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.