My apologies for missing last week. The whole household came down with a very bad case of food poisoning from something from Easter dinner. We haven't determined exactly what caused it as some of the family didn't get sick but ate the same things. But it was not a fun 36 hours at my house!
So I want to talk a little bit about food safety. Having a knowledge of how to handle food preparation is key to help preventing food borne illnesses. Food can be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins, and by following a few simple rules, you can go a long way to preventing you and your family from suffering from any illness.
First of all, before preparing any type of food, make sure your hands are clean! Hot water and soap go a long way to preventing contamination. Frequent handwashing during prep is recommended, especially if you are handling meat and fruit and veggies. Also, make sure your utensils and cutting surfaces are clean. Clean these well between uses between meats and veggies/fruit.
Many kitchen places sell separate cutting surfaces for your different foods. Having colour coordinated cutting surfaces will help - red for meat, green for fruit and veggies, etc.
When cooking meat, make sure it is thoroughly cooked - no pink meat in ground meat, poultry or pork. Click here for a chart of safe temps for meat. My #1 son has a nifty digital thermometer with a long probe that he uses all the time when cooking either in the oven or on the Traeger. It is programmable and has an alarm that you can set to let you know when temps are reached.
When storing raw meat in the refrigerator, store it in the lowest bin next to the bottom of the fridge. This way, if any meat juices leak, whether from the packaging or the drawer itself, it will leak onto the bottom of the fridge and not drip onto fruits and veggies underneath.
Now, some of the food we all ate Easter was either already cooked deli chicken from a local grocery store (which we have purchased numerous times) and packaged potato and macaroni salad. Could it have been any of these? Maybe. I didn't purchase the chicken and was hesitant to ask how long ago it had been bought, and if it had been in the refrigerator since then or left out on the counter (family is kind of touchy that way). Same with the salads. But if you see a deli worker using unsafe food practices call them on it right away and refuse the food (handling raw chicken and then cooked with the same gloves is NOT kosher) and report to the store manager. Yes, someone might lose a job but better that than many people getting sick. Check the seals and expiration dates on prepackaged foods - disgard if tampered with or past the date.
Now, if you or a member of your family does get food poisoning, there are a few things to remember here, too. Don't get dehydrated! Even though you may not be able to get or keep much down, sips of water, ginger ale, Pedialyte, etc., are vital! And keep pushing them even after the overt symptoms have stopped or you'll find yourself in the hospital. Get out the Clorox wipes and make sure all surfaces are clean between trips to the bathroom - toilet, sink, floors, buckets, etc. You don't want to get any other members of the family sick if they missed the first round. If there is a fever, or symptoms persist - get to the doctor or emergency room. Your illness could be part of a bigger issue and the Health Department may be notified if many people contacted the illness from a single source.
Now that I've thoroughly scared you or grossed you out - remember the old adage; When in doubt, throw it out! And wash your hands!
Have a great week!