April 15, 2014

USDA Challenges Back to School Safety Smarts

The USDA is challenging consumers to a quiz on food safety as part of its back to school initiative. The quiz is based on actual calls to the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. The hotline, 1-888-674-6854, is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and is staffed by specialists.

Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said, “preventing foodborne illness is part of USDA’s public health mission, but one in six Americans is still expected to get sick from the food they eat this year. Back to school time provides an excellent opportunity for the whole family to brush up on food safety steps.”

One of the questions is about microwave safety. Many consumers don’t know about “standing time” in microwave cooking directions. That’s not a direction you can ignore, because food continues to cook after the microwave stops cooking. Standing time lets food come up to a safe internal temperature to destroy any bacteria that may be present. Plus, eating food the second it comes out of the microwave oven can lead to burns, since the food continues to heat for a few minutes.

Do you like to eat leftover pizza? Another question is about refrigerating foods. Even if it isn’t topped with perishable meats or cheeses, any leftover pizza must still be refrigerated. Bacteria grow easily in foods that are rich in carbohydrates, such as pizza crust, cooked pasta, and cooked rice. So these and any other leftover foods should be refrigerated within two hours after cooking. Uncooked vegetables are the only food safe to leave at room temperature for more than two hours.

Take the quiz on the USDA site and learn more. And check out more information at Food Safe Families, the first-even national multimedia food safety campaign launched by the government to reduce food poisoning in this country. Graphic courtesy of FoodSafety.gov.

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