Food Safety Education Month
As students, parents and caretakers adjust to a physical return to classrooms this fall, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds families to follow food safety practices to prevent foodborne illness when it comes to preparing frozen foods.
After a year of virtual learning, households are adjusting to new schedules and routines as students and schools return to in-person learning. When it comes to packing lunches, preparing after-school snacks, or quick and convenient dinners between after-school activities, frozen foods are a popular option. In a recent USDA study (PDF, 4 MB), 76 percent of study participants said they would buy not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken products for their children to prepare at home.
“I appreciate the convenience of frozen foods,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “Getting your kids involved in frozen food prep can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness for the whole family. Have them instruct you on proper cooking from the package label or make a game of watching the food thermometer reach the safe internal temperature on the package instructions.”
Follow the below tips to prepare frozen foods safely all school year long. Get the kids involved in fun ways while enhancing their reading comprehension skills. Have them check the food thermometer for the correct temperature.
Check the Package
Not all frozen foods are fully cooked or ready-to-eat. It can be difficult to tell when foods are not-ready-to-eat when they have browned breading, grill marks or other signs that normally show that a product has been cooked. In the USDA study, 22 percent of the participants preparing frozen foods were not sure if the products were raw or fully cooked despite reading the product instructions, and among these participants, nearly half incorrectly believed it was fully cooked.
- Always check the product packaging to see if the food is fully cooked (and therefore ready-to-eat) or not-ready-to-eat.
- Frozen products may be labeled with phrases such as “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook” and “Oven Ready” to indicate they must be fully cooked to safe internal temperatures to be eaten safely.
Wash Hands and Surfaces
Following proper handwashing steps before, during and after preparing frozen food reduces the risk of transferring harmful bacteria from your hands to food and other surfaces. It is important to complete all five steps to handwashing:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel.
In the same study, 97 percent of participants did not attempt to wash their hands during the preparation of not-ready-to-eat frozen, breaded chicken products. Of those who tried, 95 percent failed to wash their hands properly with all fiv