By Kate Levinson, MPH, MA, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, CDC
After “flowers or chocolate” (hint: both!), the next big Valentine’s Day question isn’t whether to order the heart-shaped pizza (hint: yes!)—it’s whether to go out to a cozy neighborhood restaurant or cuddle up on the couch and eat takeout. No matter where you dine, make sure you celebrate love with a safe meal.
People in the U.S. do a lot of eating out, on Valentine’s Day and the other 364 days of the year. According to the National Restaurant Association, 49 cents of every dollar spent on food was predicted to be spent at restaurants in 2011. Most diners do have a safe meal. However, more than half—59%—of the 13,405 outbreaks of foodborne illness reported in the U.S. between 1998 and 2008 involved food prepared in a restaurant or deli setting, according to CDC.
So whether you’re reserving a corner table at the local hotspot or grabbing takeout on your way home this February 14, make sure to keep you and your valentine safe.
Table for Two
All restaurants are required to follow food safety guidelines set by state and local health departments—but you can also follow these simple steps to keep your food safe.
- When you get to a restaurant, look at how clean things are before you even sit down. Are the glasses, silverware, napkins, and tablecloths clean? Is the floor free of bits of food and debris? If not, consider eating elsewhere. If available, check the results of the restaurant’s latest health inspection.
- Always order your food cooked thoroughly. Remember that foods like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs need to be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. When you're served a hot meal, make sure it's served to you piping hot and thoroughly cooked. If it's not, send it back.
- Don't eat undercooked or raw foods, such as raw or undercooked eggs. Undercooked or raw eggs can be a hidden hazard in some foods like Caesar salad, custards, and some sauces. If these foods are made with commercially pasteurized eggs they are safe, but if you are unsure about the ingredients in a particular dish, ask before ordering it.
- Not going to finish that? Get that doggie bag in the fridge—fast. If you will not be arriving home within 2 hours of being served (1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F), it is safer to leave the leftovers at the restaurant. Also, remember that the inside of a car can get very warm so any food left inside may be affected. Bacteria grow rapidly in temperatures above 40°F, so it is always safer to go directly home after a meal and put your leftovers in the refrigerator.
A Quiet Night In
Whether you’re picking up food to eat at home or having food delivered, do the following to keep your food safe.
- Keep HOT Food HOT! Once food is cooked it should be held hot at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Just keeping food warm (between 40°F and 140°F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food. A preheated oven, chafing dishes, preheated warming trays, or slow cookers may be used.
- Keep COLD Food COLD! Cold foods must be kept at 40°F or below.
- Follow the Two-hour rule. Throw away all perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles that have been left at room temperature longer than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
- Save it for later—safely. If you plan to eat at a later time, take-out or delivered food should be divided into smaller portions or pieces, placed in shallow containers, and refrigerated.
The Celebration Continues…with Leftovers!
If your romantic dinner is just too big to finish, go ahead and put it in the fridge—but eat it soon, within three to four days. Consult this chart for storage times for the refrigerator and freezer.
For more information, check out these resources:
By Diane Van
Have plans for the big game? We all know this day is more than just football. It’s the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, next to Thanksgiving day. Chips, wings, guacamole, chili – sounds like a good time right? It should be!
Don’t let this snack-filled day end in food poisoning. Food poisoning has lots of causes, including leaving food out too long. Here are some tips to ensure everyone enjoys the big game between the Giants and Patriots, and all the good food that comes with it.
Clean: When preparing party foods, wash hands and surfaces often.
Separate: Use separate plates for raw and cooked food when grilling.
Cook: To the right temperatures.
Chill: Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
“More than 1.25 billion wing portions will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2012, totaling more than 100 million pounds of wings, according to the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) 2012 Wing Report.”
Here’s a recipe idea for you - Chicken Wings with Mango-Tamarind Sauce/ Alitas de pollo en salsa de mango y tamarindo - courtesy of Ingrid Hoffmann which incorporates the food safety steps.
Recipe Courtesy of Ingrid Hoffmann
Serves 4 to 8
2 large mangoes, peeled, fruit cut off of the seed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 teaspoons tamarind paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed, or drumettes, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, for greasing baking sheet
- Clean work area. Wash hands and surfaces often. Use two separate cutting boards during preparation, one for raw meats and the other for fruit, vegetables and condiments.
- Place the mangoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, tamarind paste, oil, red pepper, and garlic in your blender and purée until smooth.
- Place the chicken wings in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add just enough sauce to coat the wings (about 1/2 cup, reserve the rest) and toss to coat. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil with the oil. Lift the chicken out of the sauce letting the excess marinade drip back into the bowl. Place the wings on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, and then adjust a rack so it’s 6 inches from the heating element, heat your broiler to high, and broil the wings for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce is sizzling and the internal temperature of the chicken comes to 165°, as measured with a food thermometer. Hold food hot after cooking (at 140 ˚F or above), by using a heat source such as an oven, chafing dish, or warming tray.
- While the wings bake, place the remaining (reserved ½ cup) sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken wings hot with the mango-tamarind sauce on the side for dipping.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate promptly within 2 hours. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3- 4 days.
Receta de Ingrid Hoffmann
Sirve para 4 a 8 personas
2 mangos grandes, pelados, y cortados en trozos grande
1/3 de taza de azúcar moreno
2 cdtas. de salsa inglesa
4 cdtas. de pasta de tamarindo (no pulpa de tamarindo)
1 cdta. de aceite vegetal
½ cdta de pimienta roja en polvo
2 dientes de ajo cortados en trozos grandes
2 libras de alitas de pollo (las puntas cortadas) o de muslos de pollo, enjuagados y secos
Sal y pimienta fresca molida
1 cda. de aceite de canola o aceite vegetal para engrasar la parrilla de hornear
- Limpia toda el área. Lava tus manos y limpia las superficies frecuentemente. Usa diferentes tablas de cortar durante la preparación, una para las carnes crudas y otra para las frutas, los vegetales y los condimentos.
- Echa los trozos de mango, el azúcar moreno, la salsa inglesa, la pasta de tamarindo, el aceite, la pimienta y el ajo en el tazón de la licuadora y haz un puré suave.
- Coloca las alitas de pollo en un tazón grande y sazona con sal y pimienta. Agrega sólo la salsa suficiente como para cubrir las alas (alrededor de ½ taza, reserva el resto), y revuelve para que se impregnen bien. Cubre el pollo con papel plástico y refrigera de 30 minutos a 1 hora.
- Precalienta el horno a 400 ˚F. Forra una plancha de hornear con borde con papel aluminio y engrasa el papel con el aceite. Saca las alitas de pollo de la salsa, dejando escurrir el exceso en el mismo tazón. Coloca las alitas en la plancha de hornear y hornea durante 30 minutos. Entonces, ajusta la parrilla de forma que esté a 6 pulgadas de la fuente de calor, calienta el asador a nivel alto y asa las alitas durante 3 a 5 minutos o hasta que la salsa empiece a chisporretear y que la temperatura interna del pollo alcance 165 ˚F, al medir con un termómetro para alimentos. Mantén los hot dogs calientes (a 140 ˚F o más), usando una fuente de calor como el horno, u hornos y bandejas calentadores.
- Mientras se hornean las alitas, pon la salsa reservada en una cacerola pequeña y deja que hierva. Reduce el fuego a mediano-bajo y deja hervir a fuego lento hasta que tenga consistencia de sirope, entre 5 a 10 minutos. Sirve las alitas calientes con la salsa de mango y tamarindo para remojar.
- Divide las sobras de comida en porciones pequeñas y refrigera dentro de 2 horas. Usa las sobras almacenadas en el refrigerador, dentro de 3 a 4 días.
By Howard Seltzer, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
You may have recently heard reports on the news or in the paper lately questioning the safety of orange juice. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to clarify this information and explain the situation. The FDA received reports that low levels of the pesticide carbendazim have been found in some orange juice products sold in the U.S. that contain imported orange juice concentrates. Because these carbendazim residues have generated questions about the safety of orange juice, FDA wants to assure consumers that orange juice in the U.S. does not pose a health risk.
What is carbendazim?
Carbendazim is a fungus-killing chemical used in Brazil and some other countries to preserve agricultural crops. Brazil provides about 11 percent of the orange juice in the United States market, and industry reports indicate that carbendazim is being used there because of a problem with black spot, a type of mold that grows on orange trees. FDA, which is the agency responsible for ensuring that food in the U.S. does not contain harmful pesticide residues, is taking steps to make certain that any carbendazim residues in orange juice do not present a threat to U.S. consumers.
Should I stop drinking orange juice?
No. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency that evaluates the safety of pesticides, has not approved the use of carbendazim as a pesticide on oranges, FDA believes the levels of carbendazim in orange juice are so low that there are no public health concerns. The agency bases this conclusion on the preliminary risk assessment conducted by EPA which found that the levels being reported for orange juice products already in the U.S. were far below any level that would pose a safety concern.
FDA can determine if carbendazim is present in orange juice products at levels of 10 parts per billion (ppb) or greater. FDA has collected samples from 80 shipments to the U.S. of orange juice or orange juice concentrate. As of Friday, January 27th, 29 shipments tested negative for carbendazim. Of the 11 shipments that tested positive, nine were refused entry and the other two were withdrawn by the firms that were importing them. For the complete results of the FDA testing, see Orange Juice Products and Carbendazim: Addendum to the FDA Letter to the Juice Products Association (January 9, 2012). . Testing of samples from domestic manufacturers is in process and the results will be posted the week of January 30, 2012. If any orange juice is found with carbendazim in amounts that may be a health risk, FDA will alert the public and act to remove it from the market.
How can I tell if orange juice is from Brazil?
Orange juice product labels in the U.S. must list any foreign countries that produce orange juice concentrate used in the product—whether the juice is frozen concentrated (the water is removed) or reconstituted ready-to-drink (the water is added back in to make it liquid). While many orange juice products contain some juice from Brazil, the levels of carbendazim are so low that they do not pose a safety concern.
Why are we importing all this juice anyway?
Orange juice is very popular in this country and to meet the demand year-round, U.S. food manufacturers use both domestic and imported orange juice. Also, oranges grown in the U.S. are sometimes in short supply due to hurricanes, freezes, and other weather events. While Brazil is the main source of orange juice concentrate imported into the U.S., only about 11%of the U.S. orange juice supply comes from Brazil. When Brazilian juice is used, it’s generally blended with juice from the U.S. and other countries.
For more information, check out these resources: