Food Safety

Home Canning and Botulism

Home Canning and Botulism

It is summertime and time to harvest the delicious produce you’ve been growing. You may be thinking about home canning your garden goodies to preserve them. Beware! If home canning is not done the proper way, your canned vegetables and fruits (as well as other foods, including meats and seafood) could cause botulism.

What is botulism?

Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness caused by a poison most commonly produced by a germ call Clostridium botulinum. The germ is found in soil and can survive, grow, and produce a toxin in certain conditions, such as when food is improperly canned. The toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you, and even kill you. You can’t see, smell, or taste botulinum toxin, but taking even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.

What are the symptoms of botulism?

Botulism is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know has symptoms of foodborne botulism, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

Symptoms may include the following:

Double vision

Blurred vision

Drooping eyelids

Slurred speech

Difficulty swallowing

A thick-feeling tongue

Dry mouth

Muscle weakness

How can I keep myself and others safe when it comes to home - canned foods?

Many cases of foodborne botulism have happened after people ate home-canned preserved, or fermented foods that were contaminated with toxin. The foods became contaminated because they were not canned/processed correctly.

You can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and others when it comes to home-canned foods by following these tips:

1. Use up to date and proper canning techniques. Carefully follow the instructions for safe home-canning in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

2. Use the right equipment for the kinds of foods you are canning.

Pressure caning is the only recommended method for canning low-acid foods. These foods are the most common sources of botulism linked to home-canning. Low- acid foods include almost every vegetable, some fruits, milk, all meats, fish and seafood.

Always use a properly sized pressure canner that meets USDA recommendations for pressure canning when canning low-acid foods. When you make your selection, be sure all parts of your pressure canner are in good condition.

*If your canner has a rubber gasket, make sure it is flexible and soft – not brittle, sticky, or cracked.

*Clean and remove any debris from the openings on small pipes or vents.

*If you live at a high altitude, check with your pressure canner manufacturer to adjust your canning process for safety.

*Vent the air from your canner for 10 minutes before you pressurize the canner.

Do not use a boiling water canner for low-acid foods because it will not protect against botulism. Do not use an electric, multi-cooker appliance, even if it has “canning” or “steaming” button on the front panel.

When in doubt, throw it out.

If there is any doubt whether safe canning guidelines have been followed, do not eat the food. Home-canned and store-bought food might be contaminated with toxin or other harmful germs if:

*the container is leaking, bulging, or swollen;

*the container looks damaged, cracked, or abnormal;

*the container spurts liquid or foam when opened; or

*the food is discolored, moldy, or smells bad.

If the container or food inside has any signs of contamination, throw it out! If any of the food spills, wipe up the spill using a solution of ¼ cup bleach for every 2 cups of water.

Never taste food to determine if it is safe. Do not taste or eat food that is discolored, moldy, or smells bad. Do not taste or eat food from cans that are leaking; have bulges or are swollen; or look damaged or cracked, or abnormal. Do not taste or eat food from a can that spurted liquid or foam when opened. 

 

Information from CDC Home Canning and Botulism and USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

BE AWARE AND PREPARE Your Home Food Safety

BE AWARE AND PREPARE: Your Home Food Safety

In recent research released by the USDA food Safety and Inspection Service (year 3 findings), 53% of respondents to a national survey reported having someone at higher risk of foodborne illness in their household. Someone at higher risk could be a young child, an elderly person, a pregnant family member, or a loved one with a chronic underlying health condition, like diabetes.

What might be different about a household where one or more people in the home are immune-compromised or otherwise at risk for food borne illness? Ideally, food safety would be top-of-mind for everyone in the household. Ideally, in that household, consistency in food safe handling and proper hand hygiene would be a shared priority.

People who work in food safety education are constantly working to learn more about the blocks and the motivators to home safe food handling practices. The FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety, says that “a strong food safety culture is a prerequisite to effective food safety management,” and that commitments are needed to “foster, support, and strengthen food safety culture on farms, in food facilities and in homes.  

Foster food safety at home –

Have a family discussion about values around day-to-day practices for hand hygiene, safe food handling and surface cleaning. What does it mean to be immunocompromised in your household?

Support food safety at home –

Post in your kitchen the Core Four Fightbac food safety practices: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Agree that all household members always wash their hands before sitting down to eat a meal. Consider the risks of some foods that might be favorites in your household.

Strengthen food safety at home –

Use safe recipes. Ask your favorite recipe provider to adopt the Safe Recipe Style Guide. Consistently use a food thermometer for safety and quality. Always use soap and running water to wash hands for at least 20 seconds. Make kitchen surface cleaning and sanitizing a priority. If you share your kitchen with pets, be sure to separate pet feeding areas from surfaces where you prepare family meals.

Your at-home food safety culture is to be aware and be prepared. Reducing risk of foodborne illness at home is fundamental to your family’s enjoyment of delicious, healthy foods.

Fightbac Campaign

Seven Super Steps to Safe Food in the Summer and Early Fall

During warm weather, it is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products. The warmer weather conditions may be ideal for outdoor picnics and barbecues, but they also provide a perfect environment for bacteria and pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness. Follow the suggestions below to reduce the risk of foodborne illness this summer and early fall:

  1. Wash, Wash, Wash your hands. Always wash your hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  2. Marinating Mandate. Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Don’t use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
  3. Hot, Hot, Hot! When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
  4. Temperature Gauge. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
  5. Where’s the beef? Chicken and Fish? Hamburgers should be cooked to 160℉, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145℉ for medium-rare or to 160℉ for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165℉. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
  6. Stay Away from that Same Old Plate. When taking food off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food, unless it has been washed with hot water and soap first. In hot weather (above 90℉) foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going in the refrigerator.
  7. Icebox Etiquette. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold.

Handling Ingredients During the Holidays

Our holiday meal favorites are foods made from scratch! Here are guidelines for the safe handling of a few of the ingredients that go into your holiday dishes. Foodborne illness can strike anyone. But if you are preparing foods for people who are at a higher risk for illness—pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems—it is critical to follow the basics of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
Remember, always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

EGGS
To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated. Cook eggs until yolks are firm and cook egg dishes to a safe temperature of 160 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer. Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165 degrees F before serving. Wash utensils, equipment and work surfaces with hot water and soap before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Check to be sure fresh cut fruits and vegetables like packaged salads and precut melons are refrigerated at the store before buying. Do not buy fresh cut items that are not refrigerated. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed,” need not be washed. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables. These products are not intended for consumption. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Do not use the same cutting board without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. Refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours.

SEAFOOD
It’s always best to cook seafood thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. However, if you choose to eat raw fish anyway, one rule of thumb is to eat fish that has been previously frozen. Some species of fish can contain parasites, and freezing will kill any parasites that may be present. But, be aware that freezing doesn’t kill all harmful microorganisms. That’s why the safest route is to cook your seafood.

RAW DOUGH
Do you find it hard to resist gobbling up a piece of raw dough when making cookies, or letting your children scrape the bowl? Do your kids use raw dough to make ornament or homemade “play clay”? Do you eat at family restaurants that give kids raw dough to play with while you’re waiting for the food?
If your answer to any of those questions is yes, that could be a problem. Eating raw dough or batter—whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas, could make you, and your kids sick. Do not eat raw dough. According to Jenny Scott, a senior advisor in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. There are websites devoted to “flour crafts,” don’t give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with.
Why? Flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria that cause disease. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, investigated an outbreak of infections that illustrated the dangers of eating raw dough. Dozens of people across the country were sickened by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E.coli O121. The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the patients was made with flour tested by the FDA contained some of the bacteria that was making people sick. Ten million pounds of flour were recalled, including unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising varieties.
Some of the recall flours had been sold to restaurants that allow children to play with dough made from the raw flour while waiting for their meals. CDC advises restaurants not to give customers raw dough.

WHY FLOUR?
People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough due to the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella. Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria. And don’t make homemade cookie dough ice cream. If that is your favorite flavor, buy commercially made products. Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs.
Parents of you children should be particularly aware especially if your child is in day care or kindergarten. Even if they are not munching on the dough, they’re putting their hands in their mouth after handling the dough. Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times. Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked. Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products. Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present.

What's Cookin' Newsletter | A Dozen Egg Safety Tips

Eggs are a very popular and versatile food. They must be handled with care. We have providedsafety tips for purchasing, storing and preparing eggs. Remember eggs are considered a food allergen.

 Fried Eggs

 Shop for Eggs Safely

1. Only buy eggs sold from a refrigerator.
2. Check that eggs are clean and shells are not cracked.
3. Check the sell-by or expiration date and don’t buy out of date eggs.
 fresh eggs

 Store Eggs Correctly

4. Refrigerate within two hours.
5. Store on refrigerator shelf, not in the door.
6. Use eggs in shells within three weeks.
7. Discard hard-boiled eggs within one week.
8. Eat leftover cooked egg dishes within three to four days.
 fresh eggs 2

 Prepare Eggs Properly

9. Wash hands and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs.
10. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
11. Egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees.
12. Never eat raw eggs or products that contain them.

SAFE MICROWAVING

When it comes to Convenience Foods, Cook It Safe

Many Americans’ freezers are stocked with fast, tasty convenience foods. While the shortest distance between the freezer and the table may be the microwave oven, not all convenience foods can be cooked in the microwave.
Challenge yourself to Cook It Safe!

Prevent foodborne illness due to under-cooking frozen or other convenience foods with these four simple tips:

clean microwave

  1. Read and Follow Package Cooking Instructions.
  2. Know When to Use a Microwave or Conventional Oven.
  3. Know Your Microwave Wattage Before Microwaving Food.
  4. Always Use a Food Thermometer to Ensure a Safe Internal Temperature.

MICROWAVE DEFROSTING

Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.
Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles, and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Do not hold partially cooked food to use later.

IS YOUR KITCHEN MAKING YOU SICK?

IS YOUR KITCHEN MAKING YOU SICK?

Food Safety Tips

Follow these 11 tips to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

                 wash your hands      

  1. Suds up for 20 seconds.
  2. Keep foods separate.
  3. Start with a clean scene.
  4. Don’t rinse meat or poultry.
  5. Keep your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees.
  6. Read and follow package cooking instructions.
  7. Rinse fresh fruits and veggies under running tap water.
  8. Place meat and poultry in plastic bag provided at the meat counter.
  9. Never defrost at room temperature.
  • Use a food thermometer.
  • Clean out your fridge. No leftovers past 3-4 days.

             COOK TO SAFE TEMPERATURES

Safely cooking food is a matter of temperature. Foods need to reach a high enough internal temperature to kill bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Color is NOT a reliable indicator of safety.

Check with a food thermometer.

Microwave to a safe temperature.

Party Platters and Buffets

PARTY PLATTERS AND BUFFETS

holiday meals

A popular way to celebrate holidays or any party occasion is to invite friends and family to a buffet. However, this type of food service, where foods may be out for long periods leaves the door open for uninvited guests---bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Here are some tips for a safe buffet:

Safe Food Handling

Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Clean kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils with hot water and soap. Always serve food on clean plates, never those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Bacteria that may have been present in raw meat or poultry can cross-contaminate the food to be served.

Ready to Cook a Feast

If you are cooking foods ahead of time for your party, be sure to cook foods thoroughly to safe internal temperatures.

Keep Hot Foods HOT and Cold Foods COLD

Hot foods should be held at 1400F or warmer. On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 400F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. If you buy party trays at the store, remove lid and fill with ice. Put the tray on the lid for a handy cooling station. Bacteria can also multiply quickly in moist desserts that contain dairy products. Keep eggnog, cheesecakes, cream pies and cakes with whipped-cream or cream-cheese frostings refrigerated until serving time.

Safely Sauced

Some sauces, dressings and even dessert recipes contain uncooked eggs. If your homemade recipes call for uncooked eggs, you can modify them by using pasteurized eggs, pasteurized egg product or cooking the egg mixture on the stovetop to 1600F, then follow the recipe’s directions.

The 2 – Hour Rule

Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there two hours or more.

Storing the Smorgasbord

Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving.

This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat foods to 1650F. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than one large platter. You can prepare extra serving platters and dishes ahead of time, store them in the refrigerator or keep them hot in the oven (set at approximately 200 to 2500F) prior to serving.