Consumer Diary: Don’t take risks with frozen food | Business

Now that the kids are going to school, some of you parents may be preparing lunches to go, after-school snacks, or quick dinners between after-school activities. So, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns, if you’re cooking frozen foods you should follow specific safety practices to prevent foodborne illness — on top of dealing with the COVID-19 threat.

A recent USDA study found that 76% of survey takers said they would buy not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken products for their children to prepare at home. But 22% of those preparing frozen foods weren’t sure if the products were raw or fully cooked despite reading the instructions. Almost 50% wrongly believed they were fully cooked. All I can say is YIKES!

Here are the USDA’s tips:

• Wash hands and surfaces before, during and after preparation: 1. Wet hands with clean, running water, and apply soap. 2. Lather for at least 20 seconds by rubbing hands together with soap, lathering the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails. 3. Rinse hands under clean, running water. 4. Dry hands using a clean towel.

In the survey, 97% did not attempt to wash their hands during preparation, and of those who did, 95% did not wash hands properly with all four steps. Yikes again!

• Always check the packaging to see if the food is fully cooked or not-ready-to-eat.

• Labels such as “Cook and serve,” “Ready to cook” and “Oven-ready” indicate the products must be fully cooked to safe internal temperatures.

• Use a food thermometer. Safe internal temperatures:

Beef (steaks, roasts, chops), pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three-minute rest time.

Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal): 160 F.

Poultry (whole or ground): 165 F.

Heat all ready-to-eat or fully cooked frozen foods to 165 F.

• After cooking or heating frozen foods, eat or refrigerate promptly. When out in a temperature range of 40 degrees to 140 degrees for too long bacteria can hit dangerous levels. Refrigerate food within two hours after cooking.

Pack fully cooked food for takeaway with a frozen gel pack, water bottle, or juice container. Place on top of food, not on the bottom. Cold air flows downward.

• Safely refrigerate leftovers at 40 degrees up to four days. An appliance thermometer will insure your refrigerator is below 40 degrees.

Since my old reliable Starbucks tumbler began to accumulate black mold, I’ve been looking for a new model that can keep water and seltzer ice cold for 24 hours.

I bought another Starbucks tumbler (about $28) that did well, except it started to leak. A gold S’Well tumbler from MIRA ($14.95) did fairly well, except the ice comes out of the wide mouth every time I drink. I also tried a tumbler from Contigio ($14.99), but the ice I inserted at 9 p.m. — also exiting the wide mouth — melted by dawn.

Then my daughter suggested the 20-ounce tumbler from Zojurushi ($27.99 from Amazon). This stainless steel, vacuum-insulated mug is far superior, the ice still in the tumbler more than 24 hours later!

Reach out to Harlan and let him know your questions, issues, and concerns as a consumer; send him an email at [email protected]