With Memorial Day only a few days away, it is a good time to review some tips for safe food prep and leftovers for celebrations that you may be attending or giving. The last thing you want is for friends to end up with food poisoning!
The process of food prep can be a place where foodborne illness may be introduced. There are four important strategies for preparing safe foods for the holiday.
Hands, cutting utensils and cutting boards, and vegetables and fruits (yes, even those with skins that you don’t plan to eat but will cut through, such as melons) need to be washed.
Use different cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meats to reduce cross contamination. Use a clean plate for cooked meats to keep contaminants in raw meat from your cooked food.
The internal temperature recommended for meats vary, so use a thermometer this handy chart to make sure your meat is safe to eat. This does not mean that all meat needs to be well done. 145 degrees F is the minimum recommended temp for beef, veal, and lamb, which is typically medium.
Food can be set out for consumption for up to 2 hours. After that time, it is best to refrigerate food items to reduce the chance of foodborne illness.
I know what you are thinking. “I have all of this food left over from Memorial Day and it’s a shame for it to go to waste.” Once a dish is made or cooked (by you, a market, or restaurant, etc.), leftovers are safe to eat for three (3) days. Beyond that, you risk getting foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning.
“But I have been eating week old leftovers without any trouble for years!” Adult and healthy, you may experience nothing or have a passing, minor illness with foodborne illness. Pregnant, have a chronic disease, are under age 5, or over 65, foodborne illness can be a more serious event. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million people get sick every year from food poisoning. Making things more complicated is the fact that some foodborne illnesses can occur hours or days after eating the spoiled or contaminated food which can then make it challenging to determine which food is the offender. So, after 3 days the leftovers need to go.
With safe food prep and handling of leftovers, your Memorial Day will be memorable for the important things like doing Murph with the BIG community, remembering those who died while serving in the armed services, and hopefully some time off to spend with loved ones and friends!
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN