Food Safey

Talkin’ Turkey & Food Safey
November 12, 2009
Ada Barros-Heiser, Health Educator & Cheryl Boney, Director Public Health Programs

The holiday season is fast approaching, and what better way to celebrate than bringing friends and family together around a table of hearty and healthy food? Whether you enjoy a home-cooked meal with family or celebrate by going out to a restaurant, the last thing you want to worry about is food-related illness.

Very rarely do we stop to think if the temperature of the yummy looking roast chicken at the grocery store is appropriate, or if the guy behind the counter making your peppermint mocha has washed his hands. Not to worry, these are things that the Yolo County Health Department’s Environmental Health Consumer Protection Team keeps an eye on.

Food related illness is a serious matter. Food related illness could result in short-term pain and discomfort or long-term chronic disease and even death. To prevent food-borne illness, Yolo County environmental health specialists:

  • permit and inspect over 700 retail food businesses including restaurants, markets, school cafeterias, bakeries and bars, in addition to over 400 mobile food vendors and special event food booths
  • review construction plans and inspect new and remodeled food facilities
  • investigate complaints regarding California Health & Safety Law violations, including unsanitary conditions
  • investigate suspected food-borne illness cases

Between January and September of this year, Yolo County has conducted 397 inspections of retail food businesses. Along with the inspections, they provide education to the food handlers and business owners. They have made the results of these and previous inspections easy for the public to access online. An online food-borne illness reporting program has also been implemented to make reporting quick and easy. This system has enabled Yolo County to respond to reports faster and gather information and samples while still available. Since January, staff has performed over 20 food-borne illness investigations, including three major food-related outbreaks.

There are several things consumers can do to protect themselves from food-borne illness this holiday season. Turkey is often associated with holidays and parties, but turkey can also be associated with food-borne illness if it is not thawed, prepared, cooked and stored properly. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Keep it cold – 40°F or less. Buy fresh turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it and keep it properly stored in the refrigerator.
  • There are three ways to thaw turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold running water or in the microwave oven. Allow plenty of time for thorough thawing.
  • Cook it well – to at least 165°F. A food thermometer should be used to ensure the safe minimum internal temperature has been reached to destroy bacteria and prevent food-borne illness.
  • Keep it hot. Set oven temperature high enough to keep the turkey at 140°F or above until just before serving.
  • Cool it. Keep leftovers out at room temperature for less than 2 hours. Remove from heat and cool quickly by placing food in shallow metal pans. Promptly place in the refrigerator, uncovered. Cover foods after cooling is complete.

For more information about the Yolo County Health Department Consumer Protection Program call (530) 666-8646 or visit www.yolohealth.org, to view restaurant inspection reports as well as report a suspected food-borne illness. For more information about food safety, visit www.holidayfoodsafety.org or www.foodsafety.gov.