September Is Food Safety Education Month

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September is National Food Safety Education Month, and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Food and Drug Safety Program is encouraging consumers to “Take Time to Take Food Temperatures” in order to prevent food-related illness, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard announced today.

This month’s theme was chosen to stress the importance of knowing, taking and maintaining the proper temperature of potentially hazardous foods, such as burgers, chicken, casseroles and sauces. Taking the time to check food temperatures with a food thermometer can help you, your family and guests avoid illness. Even though that burger “looks” done because it turned brown, it may still harbor dangerous bacteria that can make your family sick. Some tips for safe cooking:

· Insert a food thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the burger to check that it has reached a safe internal temperature of 155°F.

· Chicken pieces and stuffed meats should be cooked to 165°F

· Steaks, pork, and fish should reach 145°F.

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· Whole beef or pork roasts should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Check by placing the food thermometer into the center of the roast.

It is also important to keep foods at their proper temperature, and not leave food out at room temperature for more than four hours. Cold foods should be kept in your refrigerator at 41°F or below until you are ready to serve them. Hot foods should be kept hot, using tabletop equipment such as chafing dishes and sternos if possible

Put leftovers in the refrigerator immediately. Do not leave them out on the counter.

To ensure safe storage, reduce crowding of food containers in the refrigerator so air can circulate and properly cool food to safe temperatures. Also, store sauces, gravies, casseroles, soups, and other leftovers in containers less than four inches deep to allow for proper cooling to safe temperatures.

It’s also a good idea to keep a refrigerator thermometer in the fridge to ensure that the interior temperature is at or below 41°F. That way, you will know quickly if the interior temperature rises significantly.

The Food and Drug Safety Program is encouraging local health departments to take an active role in National Food Safety Month. Several health departments have taken steps to bring food safety education to their communities.

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