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Connecting You with Your Food, Farmers and Community

Safe Food All Season Long

Moving into colder weather, your gardens may be diminishing and most farmer's markets are over. But regardless of the season, and whether your foods are coming from your garden, a local source, or are store-bought, ensure you treat those foods safely. Or you could pay the price.

One in six Americans will get sick from a foodborne illness this year, according to CDC estimates. Some illnesses are relatively minor, while others result in hospitalization, long-term health problems, and even death. This is more common among certain groups, including infants, children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with a compromised immune system.

Take these four steps towards being food safe:

1. Clean

  • Wash hands. Handwashing is a major defense against foodborne illness. This involves 20 seconds with soap and water, scrubbing all of the hands, fingers, nails, and wrists, before and after handling food (and in other situations like using the bathroom, taking out trash, etc.)
  • Clean food and food-contact surfaces and equipment. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils, counter tops, and other equipment need to be cleaned with hot, soapy water. In most cases, sanitizing is not necessary as long as the kitchen is clean.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables under cold, running water before eating. Even if you plan to peel or cut off an outer skin of the produce, it still needs to be washed. Firm produce – such as melons and potatoes – should be scrubbed with a vegetable brush to remove harmful organisms on the surface.

2. Separate

  • Prevent cross-contamination. This refers to the spread of harmful organisms between different food and food surfaces.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods, such as prepared salads or raw produce.
  • Use different cutting boards, knives, and other equipment when preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Place cooked foods on a clean plate, not the plate that held the raw food.
3. Cook
  • Cook meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood and dishes containing these ingredients to safe temperatures.
  • A food thermometer is the only way to know the internal temperature and be sure it has reached a safe temperature. Color or other visual clues are not the best way to determine doneness. For these temperatures, see WEB RESOURCE 1.
  • Reheat foods to boiling or at least 165°F. If reheating in the microwave, stir foods to help reach cold spots.

4. Chill

  • Know the temperature. Your refrigerator needs to be set at 40°F or lower, and your freezer set at 0°F or lower.
  • Move perishable foods into refrigerated or frozen storage. As soon as you get home, put foods away.
  • Move cut fruit and vegetables and leftovers into refrigerated or frozen storage within 2 hours. Large amounts of leftovers will cool quickest in small, shallow containers. If perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, throw them out! This includes foods from outside the home, such as restaurants and take-out.
  • Safely thaw foods in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

Recipe Corner

Chicken Stew (Serves 6)

A cozy chicken stew is perfect for cool fall weather. Swap out a carrot or two with parsnips. Or use one small potato and one small turnip for the full sized potato.

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 medium celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2-1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 large potato, peeled and diced
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup frozen corn
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1. In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, add oil, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes or until onion starts to soften.
2. Stir in chicken, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper with 2 cups chicken broth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes until chicken is browned on the outside.
3. Add potato, peas, and corn. Cover pan and cook 15-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of cooked potatoes. Mash in a small bowl and return to stew.
4. Meanwhile, combine flour and remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth until smooth. Set aside.
5. Spread cabbage on top of stew. Cover pot and let cabbage steam about 5 minutes. Remove lid and completely stir in slightly wilted cabbage.
6. Stir flour-broth mixture into stew slowly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, as mixture thickens. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 220 calories, 5g fat, 530mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 20g protein

Recipe from: Kirby's Kitchen cooking series, Piatt Co, 2014

"Read More" Resources

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Learn about a food safety from, including proper cooking temperatures.

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Learn about safety of leftovers at, a partnership of University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University Extension.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

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