Spring is here and brings a very special holiday. Spring break is a great time for households to prepare their favorite dishes and participate in fun activities, such as egg hunting and picnics.
To keep your loved ones safe and prevent food poisoning, it is important to follow proper food safety practices when shopping, preparing and serving these holiday dishes. Meat and eggs are foods that require special handling to keep them safe.
Eggs are a popular picnic dish, and fun to decorate with when hunting for eggs. But if not handled properly, they can also be a source of foodborne illness. When buying your eggs, check to make sure they are all still intact. Take it home as quickly as possible, and store it in the refrigerator at 40 F or lower in the original carton. When you’re ready to cook them for recipes or for coloring, wash your hands and surfaces before and after handling raw eggs, and refrigerate and store them until you’re ready to use them. When coloring eggs, make sure you use food grade dyes if you plan on eating them afterward.
Plastic eggs are best for egg hunting and decoration. If you plan to use boiled eggs, make sure they don’t stay at room temperature for more than two hours and wash them before eating. If left at room temperature for more than two hours, do not eat it.
Popular meats for spring break are ham, beef and lamb. Similar to eggs, when buying meat, check the packaging to make sure it is intact. Place the meat in the plastic bag provided at the meat counter and store it separately in your shopping cart to prevent the meat juices from leaking to other items on your cart. Once you get home, refrigerate the meat to 40 F or lower, or freeze it immediately. If the meat is frozen, you can safely defrost it in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave if a small amount is what you are going to cook soon. Defrosting can take several days in the refrigerator if the chops are larger, so be sure to plan ahead. When preparing meat, wash your hands and surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops before and after handling. Please note that it is not recommended to wash the meat before preparation.
To prevent food poisoning, meat needs to be cooked at a certain temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the internal temperature of meat must be measured with a calibrated food thermometer and reach the following temperatures:
• Fresh or smoked ham, and beef or lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F and let stand for at least three minutes.
• Cooked ham is safe to eat from its packaging without reheating it; However, if reheating is desired, check the packaging for the USDA stamp and preheat it to an internal temperature of 140 F. (If there is no stamp, the ham is not packaged in USDA-inspected factory, so it will need to be preheated to 165 F.)
Many families enjoy leftovers after the holiday celebrations are over. Make sure to eat all the leftovers within three to four days and if serving it hot, reheat it to 165 F. Due to current COVID-19 guidelines, remember to try to keep gatherings small and limit them to those in the same household whenever possible. . If celebrating with others outside, practice social distancing and wear a mask, or gather outside, weather permitting.