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Use app, common sense to determine food safety

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By Joan Martin

“4 Day Throw Away” is a great media program and app for protecting yourself from bad leftovers.
This reliable program is sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
I learned about it at a recent professional conference, The National Association of Extension Family and Consumer Science Agents.
Three myths about food safety and leftovers need to be discarded. Food that looks, smells, and tastes OK is safe to eat. This is false. Bacteria may still be present.  
Freezing leftovers will kill bacteria. False. Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria. If it wasn’t safe when you put it in the freezer, then it won’t be safe when you take it out.  Some bacteria will be killed by heat if the food is heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Food should cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. False. This just allows bacteria to grow during its favorite temperature of 40 degrees to 140 degrees.
This recommendation is a throwback to the days when there was no electricity, only an icebox full of real ice.  The hot food would melt the ice.
Foods containing meat or poultry must be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Always use a food thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the food. Reheating in slow cookers is not recommended because the food temperature may remain in the danger zone of 40 – 140 degrees. too long.
Reheat sauces, soups and gravies to a boil. If reheating in the oven, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees.  When reheating food in the microwave oven, cover, rotate and stir food for even heating. Always allow standing time before checking the internal temperature of the food. Typical standing time is three minutes for one or two servings, five minutes for four servings and up to 10 minutes for larger amounts of food.
After four days, throw it away, is just a general rule.  Some foods won’t keep that long. If you have an Apple media device such as an IPOD, IPhone, or IPad or use iTunes on your computer, then you can purchase an app for 99 cents. Check it out on www.fourdaythrowaway.org.
You can also check the website for information on how long to keep specific items. Foods are listed by groups and then extensive lists are found in each section.  
You can also contact the Anderson County Extension Office for more information. USDA offers food safety information on the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854.
The Anderson County Extension Office has a limited number of refrigerator thermometers (16) and food thermometers (20) to give to readers of this article.  Supplies will be distributed on a first come basis.  
Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.  Discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures about 90 degrees.  This includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant.  Some exceptions include cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits.

Joan Martin is a consumer and family sciences agent the Anderson County Extension office.