Food safety important in summer months

Edith Lovett

Pulaski County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Each year 1 in 6 Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. Naturally occurring bacteria that you can't see, smell, or taste can contaminate food at any time. Right now there may be an invisible enemy ready to strike the food you have left out on the counter.

For picnic outings, grilling and an easy snack Americans often grill hot dogs. It may surprise you but Americans will consume millions of hot dogs this summer. Some of you are saying "this isn't my favorite meat to grill" but lots of people love to roast hot dogs, grill them, or steam for their many outings. Storing and cooking these hot dogs properly is the key to preventing food poisoning from this food. When you open a package of hot dogs, you should not store them in the refrigerator for more than one week. So when you only use one or two hot dogs out of the package, just freeze the remaining hot dogs, and take them out of the freezer as needed.

Unopened packages of hot dogs can be stored for two week in the refrigerator. You can always put them in the freezer, and take the hot dogs out as needed. Read the dated label on the package to see what date is given for you to use them by. Even though hots dogs come fully cooked, it is important to steam your hot dogs, roast, broil or grill them to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Always clean the surfaces and all utensils that come in contact with the hot dogs and their juices.

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on your hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item. Consider using paper towels to clean up the kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with tap water.

Cross contamination is how bacteria is spread. Clean your hands and food surfaces often, separate raw meats, poultry, seafood and eggs from ready to eat foods, cook to the right temperature, and chill and refrigerate food promptly. Improper handling of raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can create an inviting environment for cross contamination. As a result harmful bacteria can spread to food and throughout the kitchen.

Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, your grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The freezer temperature should be 0 or below. Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer. When marinating keep the marinate food in the refrigerator until ready to prepare. Another good tip is to use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis. For more food safety tips, contact the Pulaski County Extension Office.

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Entertain your family with a hot dog bar. Get your grilled hot dogs, and hot buns and lots of the toppings listed below for some summer fun and a delicious "Hot Dog." You can chop, cut and grate all of these items the night before and place them in separate bowls or jars in the refrigerator until time for the cook out.

The Chicago Hot Dog has a dill pickle spear/ sweet pickle relish, tomatoes, peppers, yellow mustard and poppy seed sprinkle over the hot dog and on the bun.

The Buffalo Dog has celery leaves, buffalo wing sauce, ranch dressing, crumbled blue cheese, chives and chopped onions on top of their hot dog.

The BLT Dog has shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, crispy chopped bacon and ranch dressing drizzled over the dog.

Grilled Mexican Street Corn Dog has guacamole, and Mexican corn salad on top of the hot dog.

The Classic Hot Dog has what you want on it, ketchup, mustard, onions, and chili, anything you want to top your dog with.

Pulaski County Extension Events

Monday, July 22, is the date homemakers are asked to please purchase your ticket for the County Annual Meeting. These tickets are on sale at the Extension Office for $12. The Pulaski County Extension Homemakers County annual meeting will be held on Monday, August 5, starting at 5:00 at the East Somerset Baptist Church.

Monday, July 22, Denise Salter will be teaching a "Card Making" class at the Extension Office. All supplies are provided and the class begins at 10:00 o'clock.

The Pulaski County Extension Homemaker Council will meet on Monday, July 22, at 11:30 at the Extension Office.

Bessie Bain will be teaching a drawing and painting class on Wednesday, July 24, starting at 10:00 o'clock at the Extension Office.

Just Among Friends Extension Homemakers will meet on Thursday, July 25 at 1:00 o'clock at the Extension Office.