• Treat eggs like raw chicken. They could have salmonella on the surface and on the inside. Crack the egg, cook it, and then wash your hands, the counter and whatever else the egg has touched. Even if you didn’t get any egg on your hands or the counter, it’s still important to wash those surfaces because there could have been salmonella present.
• Eggs must be cooked until the yolks are firm to ensure safety. This eliminates the pleasure of eating them sunny side up, but if you are worried about getting sick, that’s the safest solution. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
• Don’t wash eggs right after you buy them because that can remove the protective coating that keeps the shell impermeable to air and sometimes bacteria. (Commercial egg producers use a detergent and washing process that doesn’t remove the coating.) It’s OK to wash them right before you crack them open.
• Don’t leave eggs unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
• Don’t store them in the door of the refrigerator where they will be exposed to warm air every time the refrigerator door is open.
• If an egg cracks on the way home, break it open and store it in a clean container. Use within two days.
• Casseroles and other dishes containing raw eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees.
• Don’t eat raw eggs in the form of health food shakes, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, egg nog, or ice cream.
EATING IN RESTAURANTS
• Keep an eye out for good general sanitation and food-handling practices. If the bathroom is consistently unclean, you may want to take your business elsewhere.
• If the server hands you a glass by the rim, or wraps his hand around the bowl of a spoon when he gives it to you, he may have been improperly trained.
• There’s a reason for the menu disclaimers about undercooked items. Many diners ignore the warnings, and food safety experts tend to see this as a personal decision — people will order what they want. But keep in mind that if you order a rare hamburger, or eggs over easy, you are putting yourself at higher risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
MAIL-ORDER FOOD SAFETY
Everyone loves getting the gift of food in the mail, especially during the holidays. Keep this in mind so you don’t get sick:
• Make sure the company sends perishable items cold or frozen, and packed with a cold source. It should be packed in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
• The food should be delivered as quickly as possible, ideally overnight.
• When you receive a food item marked “Keep Refrigerated,” open it immediately and check its temperature. The food should arrive frozen or partially frozen, with ice crystals still visible, or at least refrigerator cold (below 40 degrees).
• Even if a product is smoked, cured, vacuum-packed or fully cooked, it is still perishable and must be kept cold.
• If food arrives above 40 degrees, as measured with a food thermometer, notify the company. Do not eat, or even taste, the product.
LEFTOVERS AND STORAGE
• Leftovers should be stored in shallow containers for quick cooling, and refrigerated within two hours of cooking.
• Refrigerators should be set to a temperature of 40 degrees or below.
• Leftovers should be reheated to a temperature of 165 degrees, or until hot and steaming.
• Don’t rely on the smell test to determine if raw foods or leftovers are safe to eat. The smell test only works if meat is spoiled. It won’t tell you if there are pathogens present.
• Store home-canned goods for one year, others for two years.
• To download an iPhone app that will tell you when leftovers should be thrown away, go to: itunes.apple.com/app/leftovers/id427307538?mt=8
• Beef should be stored at 40 degrees or less and used within three to five days, or frozen. Ground beef and meats such as liver, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads or tongue should be used within one to two days.
• Thaw frozen beef in the refrigerator. Once raw beef defrosts, it will be safe in the refrigerator for three to five days before cooking. During this time, according to the USDA, if you change your mind and decide not to cook it, it can be safely refrozen.
• Cook whole cuts of raw beef, veal steaks and chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer. Ground beef, veal and pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
• If served undercooked ground beef in a restaurant, send it back.
• Don’t put cooked hamburger patties on the same platter that held the raw meat.
• Earlier this year, the USDA changed the longtime rule that whole cuts of pork should be cooked to 160 degrees. The agency now says it is just fine to cook pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Why? Trichinosis, a parasitic disease that is transmitted through undercooked pork, is no longer a problem in this country’s commercial pork industry.
• Ground pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
• Wash your countertops, utensils and cutting boards after peeling produce and before cutting and chopping. Bacteria on the outside of the produce can be transferred to the inside when it is cut or peeled. When done with preparation, wash surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water.
• Don’t wash produce with soaps or detergents. Use clean, cold water.
• Use a vegetable brush on items with a thick skin to help wash away hard-to-remove microbes.
• Produce with a lot of nooks and crannies like broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce should be soaked for a minute or two in clean, cold water.
• After washing, dry with a clean paper towel. This can remove more bacteria.
• Do not rewash packaged products labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed.”
• Once cut or peeled, refrigerate as soon as possible at 40 degrees or below.
• For a video demonstration of how to wash fruits and vegetables, go to: umaine.edu/publications/4336e/
• Both whole poultry cuts and ground poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured by a food thermometer.
• Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator.
• Store raw poultry away from produce and other foods so that juices do not drip and cause cross-contamination.