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Safe for the Holidays Article Series: Food Safety

Food Safety

As the holiday season begins once again, so comes an ample amount of holiday celebrations with friends, family and co-workers. Many will join together to eat, drink, and be merry over dinners, luncheons and treat exchanges. While these events are meant to be fun and enjoyable, there is a danger that comes with all the festivities – food borne illnesses.

Food-borne illnesses are caused when harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria grow and spread into food that is consumed. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses include fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Unlike other illnesses, foodborne illnesses are preventable. The best way to avoid contracting a food-borne illness is to have a knowledge of how to handle food properly.

Food safety is vital in preventing food-borne illnesses. It is not only important to consider during the holidays but throughout the year in day to day life. People who work with food like chefs, school lunch workers, servers, line cooks, and caterers should have extensive knowledge of food safety.

Preparation

Safe food begins with preparation. All food should be prepared in clean, organized environments. Before preparing food, you should wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Countertops, utensils and tools should be properly sanitized as frequently as possible.

-Raw meats and vegetables should be cut on separate cutting boards to avoid cross contamination. To keep boards distinguished, use boards that are different colors.

-To thaw frozen meats like turkey, the safest method is in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds. Unlike other thawing methods, after a turkey is thawed in a refrigerator, it may be refrozen without being cooked.

-There is no need to wash meat. The only way to kill bacteria is to cook it to the correct temperature.

Cooking

The key to safe food is proper cooking. Most vegetables are safe to be consumed raw but meat which is more likely to carry illness causing bacteria must be cooked.

Know the proper cooking temperatures for different selections of meats:
-Poultry (whole or cut) – 165 degrees Fahrenheit

-Cuts of Pork, Beef, Veal and Lamb – 145 degrees Fahrenheit with 3 minutes of rest.

-Ground Pork, Beef, Veal and Lamb – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

-Precooked Ham – 140 degrees Fahrenheit

-Eggs (Inside dishes) – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

-Steak and Roasts – 145 degrees Fahrenheit

Serving

To maintain the integrity of food, dishes should be served accordingly. Bacteria grows best when food is between the temperatures of 40 degrees (F) and 140 degrees (F).

-Keep hot and cold foods apart and use separate serving utensils for each dish.

-Cold dishes should be kept over ice or in the refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

-Hot dishes should be kept in chafing dishes, crock pots or in a hot oven above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

-Use disposable gloves when serving items like finger foods and smaller items when not using utensils.

-Any food that is left over should be put away with two hours. (One hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. )

Storage

Proper storage of leftovers can keep food safe for up to 4 days in a refrigerator. (Freezing food can extend that time period.) Leftover food should not be consumed after the allotted time frame and get thrown away.

-Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease the amount of cooling time needed to reach below 40 degrees (F).

-Do not mix dishes in containers.

-Do not heat food in chafing dishes. The heating time will leave food in the danger zone (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) for too long.

-Reheat dishes to 165 degrees (F)

-If a dish seems to be spoiled, throw it away. Never taste anything to check for freshness.

Overall, food safety is an issue that should not only be taken into account during the holidays but in daily life as well. Whether it’s thanksgiving dinner or lunch in the office, food safety must be prioritized to ensure the wellbeing of everyone. To avoid foodborne illnesses in an occupational setting, give employees access to helpful information about food safety and preventative measures that can be made. Being proactive with food safety will allow everyone to focus on what’s most important this holiday season: spending quality time and making memories with the ones we love and cherish.

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