It's a grab and go world

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, September 24, 2003

By BY Carolyn Bivins Extension news
You can do it at a drive-through restaurant; you can catch it at a cafeteria and you can even grab it in a grocery store. What is it? It's… MEALTIME!
Mealtime is "grab and go" for many people. Take-out food is taking over and we must practice caution. Whenever and wherever you get your take-out food please remember to practice these food safety tips:
TIP 1: More Than Two Is Bad For You
Two hours is the maximum time perishable foods should be kept at room temperature. When not kept under control, bacteria can grow rapidly. If you're serving food in temperatures over 90 F, such as a picnic, limit the time in which food sits out to one hour or less. Just ONE bacterium, doubling every 20 minutes, could grow to 64 bacteria in two hours and 2,097,152 bacteria in seven hours!
Don't hesitate; refrigerate . . . at 40 F or colder . . . if you won't be eating your take-out meal within two hours. Perishable foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, pasta, rice and cooked vegetables. Also, refrigerate fresh, peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables within a couple of hours.
TIP 2: Here's The Rule, Get It Cool
Refrigerate hot take-out foods right away if you won't be eating them within two hours – let the refrigerator cool them down. Leave the covers of containers cracked open to help food cool faster. Cover tightly once the food is cooled.
For large quantities, divide food into loosely covered shallow containers before refrigerating; cover tightly when cool. Food cools more rapidly in shallow containers, limiting the growth of bacteria.
If you leave your pizza and other perishable foods at room temperature for more than a couple of hours, TOSS them out. Some types of bacteria can form a heat-resistant toxin that cooking can't destroy.
TIP 3: Avoid Delay, Eat In A Day
Plan to eat take-out foods and leftovers within a day for greater safety and quality.
TIP 4: Don't Miss A Beat, Safely Reheat
Don't reheat take-out food in its original container in the microwave, unless the container is described as safe for microwave use. Chemicals from carryout containers can be absorbed into foods at high temperatures. Safe containers for microwave cooking include glass and glass ceramic cookware, and those labeled for microwave use.
To heat thoroughly in your microwave:
COVER the microwave container with a lid or plastic wrap turned back at one corner. The plastic wrap shouldn't touch the food. This prevents the possible absorption of chemicals from the plastic wrap at high temperatures. Trapped steam helps destroy bacteria and ensure uniform cooking.
STIR AND/OR ROTATE food midway and as needed during microwaving.
REHEAT foods until they are steaming hot throughout (165 F).
TIP 5: When In Doubt, Toss It Out
You can't always see, smell or taste bacteria that cause food-borne illness. It takes from 1/2 hour to two or more weeks before you get sick from contaminated food. Sometimes it's hard to know if food has been handled safely. If you don't know, give food the heave ho!
Even though SEPTEMBER has been designated as NATIONAL FOOD SAFETY EDUCATION MONTH (TM) we should keep these tips in mind 24/7, 365 day a year. Adopted from the National Food Safety Education Month (TM) sponsored by the Industry Council on Food Safety.
Carolyn Bivens is an extension agent for Escambia County and may be reached by calling (251) 867-7760.

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