What is safe food? Keeping food safe is not only the responsibility of the grower or processor, but also you and me as the consumer. How food is handled from the grocery to the table is the first step in guaranteeing our families and friends safe food at any meal or occasion. This month on “It’s About You”, Peggy Helton, FCS Agent for Whitley Co gives some insight on handling food safely from grocery to the kitchen table as well as hints on keeping food safe during emergency situations and Janet Kurzynske, Chair, Nutrition and Food Science, UK School of Human Environmental Sciences explains the relationship of food safety and food borne illnesses.

Core Messages

  • “Keep hot food hot, cold food cold” is not only common sense advice in the kitchen, but also during grocery shopping. When purchasing food, start with the non-perishable foods in the middle aisles, leaving the fresh food products as the last item to put in the grocery cart.
  • Keep produce, dairy and meat items separated in the grocery cart to prevent cross contamination. Always place fresh meat items in separate plastic bags at the meat counter to avoid potential contamination issues. 
  • Use insulated coolers to transport perishable food from the grocery store to home if traveling long distances and during warm weather months. 
  • When storing perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer, remember the type of storage container or product will guarantee the quality of the product when used. Use plastic containers, bags or paper wrap especially designed for such use and always mark the date of the product when stored. 
  • Store food items in the freezer, using the FIFO method- First In, First Out -to ensure foods are used within the a time frame that ensures quality. Plan to use frozen items within a 30 to 90 day time frame, depending on the product. 
  • Keeping foods cold with the usual refrigeration or freezer storage can be difficult during power outages. If the electricity is off for a few hours, keep the doors to both units closed. During periods of extended outages, use perishable foods first from the refrigerator or place in insulated coolers with ice (if available). A full, free standing freezer will hold food at safe temperatures for up to three days.
  • Keep a non perishable emergency food supply kit to accommodate your family in times of weather emergencies. Include foods that can be consumed without cooking such as canned meats, non fat dry milk, canned fruits or vegetables, juices, crackers and peanut butter. Store your emergency food in a portable plastic container, so you can “grab and go” if necessary. 
  • Hand washing and proper handling of food throughout the preparation process is the best way to avoid potential food borne illnesses. Make sure refrigerators and freezers are operating at proper temperatures and keep cold food at 40 degrees or below and hot food at 140 degrees. 
  • Remember…..food safety is in your hands!