A group of women from the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria asked me to speak about summer food safety at their meeting earlier this week. Instead, I gave them a quiz.
In discussing this summer food safety quiz, we uncovered several mistakes and misunderstandings about food handling safety in the warm summer months.
Take the quiz
How savvy are you about summer food safety? Test your knowledge with this quick quiz.
1. Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer.
True or false?
2. Youíre having a cookout and the hamburgers are on the grill. How can you tell if the burgers are done and safe to eat?
A. They have been cooked for at least 4 minutes on each side.
B. A thermometer inserted in the middle of the patties registers at least 160 degrees.
C. They are brown in the middle and no pink is showing.
3. Itís best to rinse meat and poultry under cold running water before cooking.
True or False?
4. Itís a warm sunny day and youíre at a family reunion in the park. Where should you store your cooler?
A. In the trunk of the car away from pests.
B. In the shade of a tree.
C. Beside the picnic table.
D. None of the above.
5. Youíre entertaining in the backyard on a very hot day. How long can you leave foods to sit out?
A. 2 hours.
B. 30 minutes.
C. 1 hour.
D. 3 hours.
6. Since only the inside of melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, etc.) is eaten, their outer rind does not need to be washed.
True or False?
7. You want to make homemade ice cream, and the old family recipe calls for raw eggs. Youíve heard raw eggs might be a risk for Salmonella. What should you do?
A. Use an egg substitute product or pasteurized eggs instead of raw eggs.
B. Cook and chill the milk before adding the eggs.
C. Donít worry about it. Itís never made anyone sick in the past.
Check your answers
So are you a food safety master, or a food safety disaster? Check your answers.
1. True: Yes, foodborne illnesses do increase during the summer, and the reason appears to be twofold.
First, there are the natural causes. Micro-organisms present in the environment grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 degrees. Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply in food to large numbers. When this happens, someone eating the food can get sick.
Second, outside activities increase. More people are eating outside at picnics, barbecues, harvest meals and on camping trips. The food safety controls that a kitchen provides ó temperature-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities ó are usually not available outdoors.
2. Answer: B. You canít rely on timing or color to tell that meat is done.
According to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it has reached a safe internal temperature. The only way to be sure food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.
Using a food thermometer not only keeps you safe from harmful food bacteria but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, keeping it juicy and flavorful.
3. Answer: False. Rinsing raw meat is not recommended. In fact, you can increase your risk of food poisoning if you do so. Rinsing raw meat or poultry can contaminate your sink and anything your contaminated hands touch (faucet handle, cabinet handle, etc.) It also can splash bacteria onto the countertop and other foods or utensils nearby. Bacteria that might be present on the surface of raw meat or poultry will be destroyed only by cooking to proper temperatures.
4. Answer: B. To keep cold foods cold when outdoors, keep your cooler out of the sun. Place it in the shade, or cover it with a blanket or tarp. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partly filled. If it isnít full, fill the space with plenty of extra ice or freezer packs. Transport the cooler inside your air-conditioned car, not the hot trunk.
5. Answer: C. In hot weather (90 degrees or warmer), donít leave foods sitting out for more than one hour. Indoors ó or at cooler outdoor temperatures ó foods should not sit out longer than two hours. Food that is left outside too long might look and taste fine, but can be teeming with harmful bacteria. When in doubt, throw it out.
6. Answer: False. A knife can drag bacteria from the peel or rind to the inside of a melon during cutting. Itís important to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it.
Also, some people feel the need to wash fruits and vegetables with soaps or detergents before using them. In fact, itís best not to use cleaning products on produce, since these products can linger on foods and are not safe for consumption. Scrubbing with clean running water is actually the best way to remove bacteria and wash produce safely.
7. Answer: A. Eggs are a standard ingredient in many homemade ice cream recipes. They add flavor and color, prevent ice crystallization, and create that smooth and creamy texture. But using raw eggs is no longer recommended.
Even if youíre using pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes for your ice cream, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked base (also known as a custard base) for optimal safety. This is especially important if youíre serving people at high risk for foodborne illness: infants, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
How did you score?
Add up the number of correct answers to determine your score.
6 to 7 ó Great! Move to the head of the class.
4 to 5 ó Not bad. Review your answers to see where you can improve.
Less than 4 ó Uh oh. Time to go back to food-safety school.
Contact the Ellis County Extension Office, (785) 628-9430, for more information on safe food handling in the summertime, or see the K-State Research and Extension food safety web page at www.ksre.ksu.edu/foodsafety. Thereís lots of helpful information under ďTopics of InterestĒ in the left column.
Linda K. Beech is Ellis County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.