Do you think you can tell by looking, smelling or tasting a food whether or not it's rotten? In some cases you can and it doesn't take an Einstein to look at the cheese you just pulled from the dark, dreary depths of your fridge, see the green stuff on it and know you aren't going to be eating cheese that day. That is unless you want explosive diarrhea and vomiting for days.
Let's also talk about refrigerating left-overs. Regardless of whether it came from a restaurant or you made it in your own kitchen, the window of time that the food is still safe to eat depends on how long the food was left out before it was actually put in the fridge. If you're like me, food goes in the refrigerator quickly. But if you leave it out for several hours at room temperature, the bacteria begins to do its nasty deed.
According to the CDC 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick from food poisoning every year. 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Yikes, that's a lot of people. The other problem is that the majority of people who think they just have "a stomach bug" or "the stomach flu", actually have food poisoning.
Here are some tips on how to avoid food poisoning, while still avoiding left-overs.
Most folk have no idea what the temperature of their fridge should be, Don't rely on your refrigerator dial to tell you, they are not always accurate. Go out an buy a cheap refrigerator gauge. The proper temperature for the inside of a fridge is 41 degrees. According to Jeff Nelken of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. He also says "I conducted a study about 10 years ago where we checked the refrigerator temperatures in people’s homes and we found that most were off by 8 to 12 degrees,”
Ideally food should be refrigerated right away. It can be safely left out for two hours, but at the four hour mark you need to throw it away.
The door of the refrigerator is typically about 5 degrees warmer than the shelves inside the fridge. So items like poultry, meat, milk, eggs and cheese, should always be placed on an inside shelf.
Some food require that they be cooked to a minimum temperature the first time they are prepared, in order to kill off bacteria. Measure the temperature of the food to at least 165 degrees before you consider eating it.
Make sure you cool food down before storing it in the refrigerator. Food stored in the fridge when hot can allow bacteria to multiply. The USDA recommends that when you are dealing with liquid foods, like soup, you divide it into several smaller containers to allow faster cooling. "The safe cooling temperature of hot food is 135 degrees to 70 degrees in two hours or less, and 70 degrees to 41 degrees in four hours or less,” explains Nelken. “So you have six hours to cool food down to 41 degrees.”
Always use a serving spoon. When you allow people to use the same utensil they're eating with to "double dip" they are introducing about 30 different kinds of bacteria from their mouth onto that food. If you have several people doing this at a get-together, you have a bacteria party going on before you know it, all over your food!
About once a year you should clean the coils of your refrigerator so they can breath and bring in air to the inside of your fridge.