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The department of Food and Nutrition Services

Food Facts

May, 2013

  1. The temperature danger zone, 40-140F, indicates the temperatures at which bacteria grow and quickly multiply. Foods are to be kept in this zone for no more than 2 hours before properly heating or cooling to proper cooking or storage temperatures.

  2. If you or your family members plan to have milk with lunch, and refrigeration is not available at the workplace or school, the safest action is to purchase milk when lunch is eaten. This ensures that the milk is at a proper temperature rather than in the temperature danger zone.

  3. FATTOM is an acronym used to describe the conditions necessary for bacterial growth: Food, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, and moisture.

  4. Foods provide a perfect environment for bacterial growth, due to their provision of nutrients, energy, and other components needed by the bacteria.

  5. Bacteria do not grow well in acidic conditions, which is why it is important to properly store low-acid foods (many vegetables, fruits, grains, etc.).

  6. Foods can be within the temperature danger zone for 4-6 hours before they must be either back to safe temperatures or discarded. Bacteria favor this temperature range and thus can multiply rapidly in foods that are maintained within this range.

  7. Temperature is important not only for storage of foods but also for serving. Raw meats, casseroles, and eggs all have specific temperatures to which they must be cooked in order to kill all bacteria naturally present in the food(s).

  8. Just as oxygen is essential for human life, bacteria also require this element for survival and growth. Therefore, storing foods in low oxygen environments (i.e. in sealed containers, in refrigerators, etc.) will provide an additional barrier against bacterial growth.

  9. Moisture is the final component necessary for bacterial growth. The higher the water content of foods, the greater their chance of bacterial contamination.

  10. Due to their high water content and often low-acidity, fresh fruits and vegetables are at a high risk for bacterial contamination. Be sure to wash and/or cook these foods thoroughly before serving, storing at proper temperatures.

  11. If you bring your lunch to work, be sure to check the temperature of your ice pack. It may not be cold enough to keep your foods at proper temperatures to protect against bacterial contamination.

  12. Use a meat thermometer (which can be purchased at many stores, including grocery stores) to check the temperature of meats before serving. “Cook until the juices run clear” is not enough to protect against foodborne illness.

  13. Cook ground meats and meat mixtures (i.e. hamburgers, meatloaf) to 160F, 165F if turkey or chicken.

  14. Poultry, such as chicken breasts, roast turkey, fried chicken, and turkey burgers, should be cooked to 165F.

  15. Leftovers and casseroles should be reheated/cooked to 165F.

  16. Shrimp, lobster, and crabs should be cooked until the flesh has a pearl-like, opaque appearance.

  17. The four easy steps to preventing foodborne illness are clean, separate, cook, and chill. Clean your hands and foods, separate raw and ready-to-eat foods, cook foods to proper temperatures, and refrigerate leftovers promptly.

  18. Be sure to wash melons and other fresh produce prior to service, even if you intend to remove the skin from the product. If you do not wash the produce, contaminants from the outer skin can travel to the inner flesh via your cutting utensil and thus contaminate the food.

  19. When using a thermometer to check the temperature of a cooked food, make sure the small indent (“dimple”) mid-way up the stem of the thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the food, free from any bone, fat, and gristle (if applicable). This ensures an accurate temperature and indication of whether or not the food is ready for service.

  20. Keep hot foods 140F for service, cooling to 40F within 2 hours after serving. Conversely, cold foods are to be kept 40F at all times, during both storage and service.

  21. Used in moderation, sugar substitutes such as Splenda® or Equal®, are safe for consumption and are a great way to decrease the calories in your favorite spring beverage.

  22. Irregardless of the type, sugar contributes the same amount of calories per gram. Therefore, there is no calorie difference between cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, or brown sugar.

  23. Even though most orange fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamin A, oranges do not fit this pattern. While contributing very little vitamin A, oranges pack a powerful punch of vitamin C, essential for proper growth of body tissues and their repair.

  24. One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Therefore, it takes equivalent to 500 calories of daily decreased food intake and/or exercise to result in 1 pound of weight loss per week.

  25. Calcium is important throughout the lifespan for bone health and overall body functioning. So, don’t skimp on the dairy products irregardless of your age, aiming for 3 servings/day.

  26. Quinoa, a newly promoted grain found in grocery stores, contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a great option for meatless meals. Try it as a substitute for rice or pasta, or enjoy on its nutty flavor on its own with seasoned stir-fried vegetables.

  27. Sea salt, Kosher salt, and “normal” table salt are all equivalent in their sodium content. Therefore, it is important to decrease overall salt consumption, rather than changing the variety consumed, in order to make one’s sodium intake better match the current recommendation of 1500 mg/day.

  28. Gluten-free diets, while necessary for those with celiac disease, are not more healthful than a regular diet for individuals without celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Gluten is a component of a healthful diet and its consumption is not known to cause any injurious effects for the average individual.

  29. Leafy greens are a great way to increase your daily vegetable intake. Just keep in mind that it takes 2 cups of lettuce, spinach, or other such greens to match the nutritional contribution of 1 cup of other fresh vegetables.

  30. Be sure to read and compare labels carefully when purchasing food items, as low-fat foods often contain more sugar than the original version and low-carbohydrate foods often contain greater amounts of fat than the original version. Thus, it may be more healthful to simply consume a smaller portion of the original version of the food than purchasing a modified variety.                                                                     

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