Summer Food Safety Quiz

Summer just seems to scream “let’s eat outdoors!” It’s important to remember that these opportunities for picnics, patio dining, and special summer foods also bring different problems and situations into the food safety picture. Here’s a quick quiz that can be used as a refresher for food safety in the summer.

Summer Food Safety QuizAre the following questions true or false?

  1. The safest homemade ice cream is made with a cooked custard.
  2. It’s safe to eat hot dogs that have been stored unopened in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
  3. Because it’s in a picnic cooler, it’s safe to leave food on the picnic table in a sunny location for over five hours.
  4. This is a great time to marinate meat for the barbeque. Since most of these marinades contain acids, which slows bacteria growth, it’s OK to allow the meat and marinade to “steep” at room temperature like the recipe indicates.
  5. Since it’s already been cooked, it’s OK to leave fried chicken set out all afternoon at the family reunion picnic.

Are you ready for the answers? Here they are!

1. TRUE. If you’re making homemade ice cream, look for a recipe that uses cooked custard. If you must use a recipe that calls for uncooked eggs, get pasteurized eggs or egg whites. Why? Well, there can be salmonella bacteria in raw, uncooked eggs and just because a food has been kept cold or frozen doesn’t eliminate the risk.
2. TRUE. Check the expiration date on those hot dogs. Hot dogs should be used or frozen within three days of the sell-by or use-by date on the package. An unopened package of hot dogs can stay safely in your refrigerator until the expiration date (or two weeks if there is no date). An opened bag of hot dogs should be eaten within a week of opening. Never eat hot dogs that have a cloudy liquid in the bag.
3. FALSE. The “two hour rule” changes to the “one hour rule” when temperatures creep up above 90 degrees F. This means that you should not allow food to sit out at room temperature for longer than one hour. Hot temperatures are just right for allowing the bacteria in food to multiply to numbers that could make people sick. When everyone is done eating, get that food quickly into coolers or a refrigerator.  When storing food in coolers, use lots of ice. It’s hard to keep the temperature of food in coolers below 40 degrees. Five hours may be too long to ensure that food is safe. In that case, don’t eat or save those leftovers! It may seem a waste to throw out half a bowl of potato salad or sliced fruit, but there may be several problems with it in addition to the uncertain temperatures (i.e. bugs, lots of people around — did they double dip?). Unless you are absolutely sure of the safety of the food, pitch any leftovers.
4. FALSE. Marinate your meats in the refrigerator. Yes, most recipes for marinades contain an acid. This may slow but does not stop bacteria growth. Just because the recipe says to allow it to “steep” at room temperature doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Remember, not every celebrity chef or recipe developer has had a food safety or food science class.
5. FALSE. Remember that “one hour rule” for large buckets of fried chicken or plates of burgers and hot dogs. Just because a food item has been cooked does not make it immune to bacteria growth.

While the living can be easy in the summer months, food safety takes a little more effort and planning.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

There are lots of other amazing summer resources in the Nutrition Education Store! We’re here to help you look your very best, right now!

PowerPoint: Healthy Vacation How-Tos

Food Safety Poster

How Old Is That Egg?

If you open up almost any refrigerator, you’re likely to find some eggs. But how old are they?

If you’re like most people, eggs can hang out in your refrigerator for a while. At what point are they unsafe to eat?

Food safety specialists and the folks at the American Egg Board assert that eggs can keep in the refrigerator at below 40 degrees for 4-6 weeks after purchase.

Important DatesSo what does the code on the carton mean?

The code on the carton is a “Julian date” and it’s the date the egg was packed into the carton.

Let’s look at an example. I recently found a package of eggs in my refrigerator that had the code of 281. Checking the “Julian date” calculator on the web, I learned that that the egg was packed on the 281st day of the year — that’s October 8. The use-by date is November 21, which is 45 days after the “Julian date.” That’s right on target at 5 weeks.

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about when eggs are good, let’s review how to keep them in the best shape. I’m talking about storing them — should you put eggs in the door or the carton?

The general consensus these days is to keep eggs in their carton and put the carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Skip those little shelves on refrigerator doors. With the door opening and closing throughout the day, the eggs stored in the door are subjected to temperature changes, which can cause quality loss. Storing the eggs in the original carton also helps eggs keep their moisture.

Oddly-Shaped Older EggsBut what if you don’t have the carton? How well can you tell the age of your eggs?

For many years, I believed that the age of an egg could be estimated by the size of the air cell inside. The theory was that an egg evaporates as it ages. Since the shells are porous, moisture and carbon dioxide escape and air enters the shell. This makes the air cell larger, and with more air inside, the egg floats. That’s a good theory… but, it’s not always reliable.*

According to a representative of the American Egg Board, just because an egg floats does not necessarily mean that it’s old. Instead, it may just be that the chicken laid the egg with a large air cell in the first place.

Therefore, you can’t always tell the age of an egg by putting it in a bowl of water.

On the other hand, evaporation is the premise used in the recommendation for using a “slightly older” (7-10 days) egg for hard-cooking. An egg that’s a bit older allows for easier peeling. As the egg ages, it “looses” the egg membrane’s connection to the shell, which in turn makes it easier to peel.

So, to tell the age of an egg, we need to look at what else happens when an egg ages.

When cracked open, an older egg will appear flatter. It will spread out more and the yolk membrane will be weaker and easier to break. These eggs won’t look as good when served sunny-side up, but when the appearance isn’t important, they’ll still work fine.

Older EggAn “older egg” (I’m talking about eggs that are near that 45-day “use by” date) may also not look great for when it comes to hard-cooking eggs because that air cell is more prominent. See the photos here — those are oddly-shaped hard-cooked eggs.

According to the American Egg Board, a properly-handled egg rarely spoils or becomes unsafe if it’s stored properly, no matter how long it is kept.

That said, as an egg ages, it dries out and the quality diminishes. The American Egg Board recommends throwing out eggs after 4-6 weeks.

You’ll know right away if an egg has spoiled because it will have a very unpleasant sulfur stench. Once you open the shell, you will be able to smell it. This is pretty rare, but very memorable.

So there you have it. A guide to the age of eggs.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

*Note: The Egghead Quiz has been changed to reflect this new information.

BRAND-NEW Nutrition Education Materials

BRAND-NEW Nutrition Education Materials

Have you seen the latest and greatest from the Nutrition Education Store? There are over 70 TOTALLY-NEW materials for you to try. For great shopping resources like the post above, try…

Supermarket Shopping DVD

Beverage Better Poster

Healthy Cooking and Shopping Workbook

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Displays by Design