Summer Food Safety Health Hacks
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Earlier this month my colleague, Meghan Lassiter, the Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension in Brunswick County and I joined Leigh Lane, the Executive Director of the Brunswick Wellness Coalition on the June Health Hacks program. Our topic was Summer Food Safety, just in time for summer food events and upcoming July 4 picnics and cookouts.
Never heard of Health Hacks? This is a collaboration between UNCW’s Center for Healthy Communities, WWAY, and the Brunswick Wellness Coalition. Each month a new “hack” is presented on a nutrition, health, or physical fitness topic. Originally classes were held at the WWAY studio in Leland, but since COVID they have been virtual via Facebook live or Zoom.
We started the program with a discussion about why more foodborne illnesses happen during the summer. The microorganisms that cause these illnesses tend to grow faster in the warm summer weather. Hot, humid temperate allows bacteria to thrive. Also, we’re just outside more often at cookouts, the beach, or perhaps camping trips where kitchens, refrigerators, and running water are not always available.
Food Safety Poll
Lane encouraged online participants to take a short food safety poll to help them see what they already know about food safety. Here are a few of the poll questions that the participants frequently got wrong. Test your knowledge with these TRUE or FALSE questions (answers below).
- _____The temperature within your refrigerator should be kept between 40 and 50 degrees.
- _____Adding mayonnaise to food does NOT increase its risk of food poisoning.
- _____Hard cooked eggs are great to take on a hike because they don’t need to be refrigerated.
- _____You can tell when hamburgers that are cooked on the grill are done because of the brown color.
- FALSE. Refrigerator temperatures should be below 40 degrees F. Keeping it this low helps to prolong the life and quality of the food. The best way to know if your refrigerator is at the correct temperature is to use a refrigerator thermometer. On a similar note, freezers should be as close to zero as possible. As we move into hurricane season it’s critically important to get that freezer as cold as possible. Thermometers in both of these appliances will help you know the temperature and help you make educated decisions about the safety of the food should the power go out for an extended period of time.
- TRUE. Despite what many people think, commercially prepared mayonnaise does not promote the development of foodborne illnesses. Commercial mayonnaise is high in acid and this acidity can help to keep the food safe. But, don’t use this as an excuse for not keeping these food items cold. Food safety problems are more likely caused by what you mix with the mayonnaise —such as tuna, chicken, potatoes and eggs.
- TRUE. Hard cooked eggs can be kept in the shell at room temperature, IF they have been air cooled after they were cooked. This is NOT a good method if the eggs were cooled in cold water, in the refrigerator or with ice. The shells on these eggs need to be kept intact; if they are cracked they should be refrigerated.
- FALSE. The only exact way to tell if a burger is done is by using a food thermometer. The color of the food is not a good guide. USDA research shows that one out of four hamburgers turn brown before it reaches the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Using a food thermometer can also help prevent overcooking.
July Health Hacks
If you missed this month’s Health Hacks and would like to learn more about the topic, a recording can be found on the Brunswick Wellness Coalition’s Facebook page.
Good news. Health Hacks will be in person at the WWAY studio in Leland in July. This will be the first live class since the pandemic started.
Join Lassiter, Lane, and me again for Health Hacks on July 12, 2021, at 6 p.m. Our topic will be preparing for your Hurricane Food Kit. This program is open to the public.
The Brunswick Buzz is an online newsletter written by Meghan Lassiter, the Family and Consumer Science Agent at our office here in Brunswick County. Each month this newsletter features nutrition and health information, a recipe, as well as announcements of upcoming educational programs.
You can revisit previous editions of the Brunswick Buzz on the FCS Monthly Newsletter portion of our website. To subscribe to this monthly newsletter, visit our sign up form or contact Meghan Lassiter at our office at the Government Center in Bolivia. You can call her at 910-253-2594 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610.