You may be hyper-aware of food safety issues in the summer. You know the drill—don’t keep food at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour if it’s above 90 degrees when you have food outside. (Hello—it’s been above that for about the last 4 months!) And you’re probably super careful when cooking chicken and handling raw eggs. After all, 1 out of 25 chickens at the grocery store are contaminated with salmonella, according to the CDC.)
But are you aware of food recalls and other food safety risks? Earlier this year, there was a large recall of frozen fruits from five major chains due to possible listeria contamination. (The problem with listeria is it survives refrigeration and if it’s on a food that you don’t cook, it can be a problem!) If you have food allergies, it’s also important to keep up with food recalls, because they’re often due to undeclared allergens.
How to Stay Up to Date on Recalls:
- Sign up for FDA alerts
- Costco, Sam’s and Amazon Prime members are notified if foods they’ve purchased have been recalled.
- If you subscribe to Consumer Reports Magazine, you can sign up for the Food Safety Alert service
Other Food Safety Risks You May Not be Aware Of
Bagged and pre-washed greens sure are convenient. But they do come with more risk. Sometimes cattle feed lots are near lettuce fields and the bacteria can seep into irrigation water. Pre-washed greens are processed at a small number of facilities, and if bacteria get on equipment, it spreads easily. Instead, buy whole head lettuce and remove outer leaves before washing and eating. If you’re at high risk of food borne illness, consider eating cooked greens like spinach, Swiss chard and kale, which supply similar nutrients as lettuce.
E.coli and Salmonella can also contaminate beef the same way it does lettuce. Last year 28,000 pounds of ground beef were recalled. Ground beef is riskier than whole cuts of meat because again, bacteria can easily spread from one animal to the whole large batch that’s being processed. Be safer by always cooking your ground beef all the way through with no pink. Or pick up some chuck, round or sirloin, and have the store grind it for you, or grind it yourself.
In the last five years, there were 12 recalls/outbreaks for Papaya (mostly imported from Mexico), 6 for peaches, and 4 for melons. Pre-cut fruit from the store is more risky; bacteria that may be on the skin, can transfer to the flesh. Wash the skin of fruit, even if you don’t plan to eat it and refrigerate cut-up fruit as soon as you prep it.
Moms around the world who’ve been telling their kids not to eat raw cookie dough are finally validated! While it’s common to avoid raw batter that contains eggs, that also extends to cookie dough and other doughs that don’t contain eggs. Believe it or not, flour is the culprit. Grains can be contaminated in the field from nearby livestock and wild animal droppings. The only way to destroy them is with cooking.
Happy and Healthy Eating!