Denise Schroeder column sig

Now that Indiana has moved into Stage 5 of the “Back on Track Indiana” plan, and group sizes are not limited, the potential for group gatherings that include food could be on the increase.

A gathering of friends and family is fun, but we still need to be cautious and follow food safety rules.

Follow these steps to keep food-borne germs from spoiling your part.

Keep it clean

• Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 30 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.

• Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water afer preparing each food item.

Separate raw meat from other foods

• Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from foods that won’t be cooked before eating such as fruit, salad greens, deli salads, and bread.

• Use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for fresh fruits and vegetables and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

• Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods when shopping for groceries and when storing in the refrigerator.

Cook to a safe temperature

• Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a temperature hot enough to kill germs that could make you sick.

• Follow recommended microwave cooking s standing times.

• Cold spots – areas that are not completely cooked – can provide a hiding place for germs. For this reason, always follow cooking instructions and directions for standing time – the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.

Serve foods safely

• If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer. This encourages rapid, even cooling.

• Keep hot foods hot, at 140oF or warmer. Use slow cookers, chafing dishes, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.

• For picnics and other outdoor meals, keep cold food in a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs until just before serving. Catering or getting food delivered? Make sure food that is catered or delivered stays at a safe temperature.

The ‘Two-Hour Rule’

• Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for two hours or more.

• Toss them after 1 hour if they’ve been sitting out at temperatures of 90oF or hotter, such as food served at a picnic or outdoor family reunion.

Store and reheat leftovers the right way

• Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.

• Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40oF or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.

• Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165oF before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.