Friday, June 26, 2009

Top 4 Food Safety Tips during Grilling Season and Beyond...

Summer is here and it’s time for grilling.

Do you remember your mom saying – wash your hands before dinner? And thinking, ahhh mom, I’m so hungry now! To be honest, sometimes as a kid we did wash our hands and sometimes we didn’t…and said we did. Yes, mom, it’s true. Unless you had the mom that smelled the inside of your hands to ensure that you washed. Many of us had this mom. : )

Well now, we say, "Thanks mom!". She had a reason for this and it is ever so important, especially in the summer, especially in the heat, especially in high humidity where bacteria thrives. Through the years, we’ve been accustomed to most everything we purchase having added preservatives, so we may feel we have a little ‘room’ to wiggle. We really don’t. Plus, more and more stores are carrying fresh, natural, preservative free food products (which are enticing, have improved flavor, usually a little bit more expensive), and if you shop at your local Farmer’s markets and purchase fresh honey and jams – then it’s most likely preservative free. As such, it is always important to practice food safety when storing, handling and serving foods – all foods -and not just for health reasons, but also to help the food last longer, thus, in the end, saving you money.

So, with that said, here are some food safety tips for safer grilling.

(1) Separate. ALWAYS separate raw meat from other foods. Never place cooked or raw, ready-to-eat fruits or vegetables on a plate that held raw meat. Keep surfaces and utensils separate – in other words – do not cross contaminate. Do not use the same surface, bowls or utensils for prepping raw meat that you use for, say potato salad. Use one set for the meat and one set for fresh vegetables and one set for macaroni salad. You get the idea.

(2) Sanitize. Wash hands before fixing or eating food; after touching raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs; whenever your hands come into contact with bodily fluids, i.e., runny nose, saliva, etc.; going to the bathroom; assisting a child going to the bathroom; really, anytime you leave and reenter the kitchen. Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Rinse. Dry with clean paper towel. (I know, I know what you’re probably thinking…most grab the ‘resident’ cloth kitchen towel, but bacteria can thrive in these warm, moist towels, especially in humid conditions.)

Wash all cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after using to prepare foods. To sanitize those items that handled raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs, add 1 tsp bleach to one quart of water, sanitize, then rinse. To clarify, these items must first be properly washed , then sanitized, then rinsed.

NOTE: Cloth dish towels, dish cloths and sponges are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Please launder these regularly to avoid contamination. Immediately after using these items when handling or cleaning from raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs, throw them in the laundry and get new ones. If you use a contaminated sponge to wipe down your counter, you’ve just contaminated your entire counter and potentially any item that is placed on that counter.

(3) Cook/Grill. Cooking times assume your meat comes from the refrigerator and the grill is preheated. Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked to its proper internal temperature. The proper temperature does vary by meat type, so know the right internal temp for the meat you are grilling/cooking.

Refrigerate or use a cooler to keep meat chilled, especially on warm and/or humid days. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Keep your refrigerator set at 40 degrees F.

(4) Condiments. Once opened, bacteria have an open invitation to invade your bottles. The most common way to transfer bacteria to open containers is through the lid. If the lid is removed and set down on a kitchen table, outdoors on a picnic table or on any unclean surface, it invites bacteria to attach. Once this lid is placed back on the bottle, the bacteria are now introduced to the bottle and can attach itself to the food within and mold may develop. This can occur at anytime of the year, not just during hot and humid conditions.

Do not return unused liquids or fruits or vegetables or any foods back to the original bottles – discard unused foods. In other words, if you scoop out mayonnaise, do not add the leftovers back to the bottle; if you serve olives on a tray – do not return left over olives back to the bottle - discard.

Following these basic principles, will go a long way in helping you have a healthy, enjoyable season. For additional food safety tips, visit your state health website.

Happy Grilling!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Country Living Women's Entrepreneur Event

Country Living Magazine sponsored an event for Women Entrepreneurs at the Navy Pier in Chicago on Saturday, May 30th, 2009. JAVA & Co.'s specialty coffee infused syrup was accepted to 'Pitch our Product' to a panel of judges for a possible future magazine feature. I was surrounded by creative, talented women of all ages. It was inspiring.

An informative conference with guest speakers followed the Pitch time and took place all afternoon with a wine reception to finish the event. I spoke to many wonderful, talented individuals - some who have a dream and others who had a dream and are now making it happen. It was rewarding to share information, successess, business tips and related stories. There should be many more events like this one!

Thank you to the team at Country Living. Everyone on your staff was friendly and encouraging. And thank you to all who took the time to share their inspirational journey!

Here's to carving out your own path in business!

-Jamie Knoll