Food Safety Tips

I’m in a hurry. Can I thaw meat on the counter? I forgot to refrigerate my food after dinner. Can I still eat it? As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked questions such as these. Not only do we want to reduce the chance of spreading food-borne illness to our family members, but we also want to provide safe meals or refreshments for Church activities. Since we can’t see, smell, or taste many microorganisms that may be on food, it’s important that we follow these tips to keep food safe.

  1. 1.

    Keep it clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before preparing and serving foods. Clean and sanitize work surfaces, equipment, and utensils. You can make a sanitizing solution with one tablespoon of bleach and one gallon of lukewarm water.

  2. 2.

    Thaw food properly. Thawing food in the refrigerator is safe. Large foods, such as turkey, take 24 hours for every five pounds to thaw. After thawing, meat and poultry should be used within three to four days. Foods can be thawed in the microwave if they are cooked immediately after thawing. Never thaw food on the counter or defrost in hot water.

  3. 3.

    Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods. Sanitize utensils and cutting boards between uses to limit the transfer of bacteria from one food to another. Place raw meat on the lowest refrigerator shelf so raw meat juices do not drip onto other foods.

  4. 4.

    Cook foods thoroughly. A thermometer is the only way to tell if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. The following temperatures (given first in Fahrenheit) are recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

    • 145 degrees (63 C.): beef, lamb, and veal steaks and roasts (medium rare)

    • 160 degrees (71 C.): ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal; pork chops, ribs, and roasts; egg dishes

    • 165 degrees (74 C.): ground turkey and chicken, stuffing and casseroles, leftovers

    • 170 degrees (77 C.): chicken and turkey breasts

    • 180 degrees (82 C.): chicken and turkey (whole bird or legs, thighs, and wings)

    For Church activities, prepare and cook food thoroughly at home. Meetinghouse kitchens should be used primarily for reheating and serving food.

  5. 5.

    Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When serving foods at a buffet, barbecue, or large dinner, keep the hot food over a heat source and the cold food on ice. After thorough cooking, hot food should maintain a temperature above 140 degrees (60 C.) and cold food below 40 degrees (4 C.). If you need to transport perishable food, carry it in a cooler with a cold pack or ice or in an insulated carrier with a heat pack.

  6. 6.

    Promptly refrigerate leftovers. Cold temperatures keep bacteria from growing and multiplying. Remember the two-hour rule: never leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. If you are outside and the temperature is above 90 degrees (32 C.), food should not be left out for more than one hour.

For easy referral, post this information on the back of a cupboard door or in a favorite recipe book. Most cases of food-related illnesses can be prevented if we remember to prepare and store our food properly.

Pauline Williams, Copper Hills Fourth Ward, West Jordan Utah Copper Hills Stake

[illustrations] Illustrated by Joe Flores

Staying Connected

In some emergency situations, a corded phone in the home may be your most effective method of communication. Why? Cordless phones and cell phones are handy, but they may not be fully charged and ready to use should a power outage occur. Any battery backups are used primarily to maintain the phone’s time, date, and messaging features, leaving the base units unable to operate without household current. Corded phones, however, often will operate when the power is out because phone lines are still functioning. In more severe emergencies when the lines are jammed, equipment such as amateur radios may be needed. But for most power outages, having at least one inexpensive corded phone in the home will help keep the lines of communication open for you.

Karl Jensen, Imperial First Ward, Salt Lake Highland Stake

Family Home Evening Helps: Just the Two of Us

A few years ago, our fifth and final child left home for college, leaving us empty nesters. We wanted to follow the counsel of Church leaders to have family home evening, but after years of Monday nights with our children, we weren’t sure what to do without them.

We knew we didn’t want a teacher-student format. We just wanted to share the evening and distinguish it from the other nights home together. Our first resolve was to stay away from the television and telephone as much as possible. The computer, however, became a useful tool for family history research. Accessing Internet sites that our family history center director suggested, we shared our first family night for two—a wonderfully productive evening that passed all too quickly.

Soon we felt we couldn’t wait for our Monday-night family history sessions, and we realized that we needed a lesson too. We began studying the Relief Society and priesthood manuals, Gospel Doctrine lessons, and articles of interest found in Church magazines.

Slowly we stopped focusing on what we couldn’t do without our children’s participation and discovered all the varied activities and knowledge we could share as a couple. Whether your children are gone from home or you haven’t yet been blessed with children, family home evening will bring you closer together as a couple and invite the Spirit into your home.

Ken and Marion Stewart, Hastings Ward, Grand Rapids Michigan Stake

[illustration] Silhouette by Beth Whittaker