Friday, December 09, 2005

MMM ... BACTERIAL GROWTH

David Burton's Southwest Region News Service is, as he puts it, "a weekly educational news service for University of Missouri Extension programs in southwest Missouri." He helpfully adds that the stories "may be reprinted and reused," and so we take him up on his generous offer by alerting you to the dangers of holiday eating.

No, not from consuming too much in the stressful company of family and friends, colleagues and bosses. Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist in Barton County, says it's always ugly when eggnog goes bad. When turkey falls to the dark side. Leave food out at room temperature for more than two hours and -- WHAM! -- bacterial growth could ruin your day. Unless your room is 350 degrees.

Sez Roberts: “One very important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot smell or taste the bacteria that causes food poisoning." She then proceeds to list the yummy ways your food could make you sick:
LEFTOVER TURKEY
The safest way to handle leftover turkey is to remove the meat from the bone and place it in shallow containers in the refrigerator.

Shallow containers allow the food to cool quickly and minimize bacterial growth.

“This same method applies to any food that may harbor bacteria. Stuffing, custard pies and cheesecake are examples. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately and used within a few days,” said Roberts.

COOKIE DOUGH
Another risk of foodborne illness occurs when uncooked cookie dough is eaten.

“Children love to eat raw cookie dough but keep in mind that children are one of the most vulnerable populations to foodborne illness,” said Roberts.

Raw eggs can harbor salmonella, which can cause illness. It is destroyed during the cooking process.

EGGNOG
Eggnog is a tradition for many families during the holidays. Just as it does in the cookie dough, raw egg can harbor salmonella.

Pasteurized eggnog can be purchased at the grocery store as a safe alternative to the homemade version with raw eggs.

“If you love your recipe and prefer to make your own, you can cook the eggs to assure the safety of your recipe,” said Roberts.

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the eggs and either sugar, water or other liquid from the recipe (at least one-quarter cup of sugar, liquid or a combination per egg). Cook over low heat stirring constantly until the egg mixture coats a metal spoon with a thin film or reaches 160 degrees. Immediately place the pan in ice water and stir until cool and then proceed with your recipe.
Kids, do not leave raw cookie dough and room-temp eggnog for Santa, unless you mean to kill him.