Summer is right around the corner, and with it, the season of backyard barbecues, casual buffets and picnics in the park. But keep in mind: a lot of summer cooking habits could set the stage for inviting foodborne bacteria or other pathogens to your next get-together, and that’s not the kind of party anyone wants. Test your food safety knowledge with this quiz, and do us all a favor: Put that shrimp salad on ice.
1. What is the most common foodborne pathogen in the United States?
B. E. coli
2. At what temperature should your refrigerator be set?
A. 42 degrees
B. 32 degrees
C. 38 degrees
D. 35 degrees
3. Under optimum conditions, bacteria can:
A. Double in number every 20 minutes
B. Multiply by 10 percent a day
C. Double in number every 24 hours
D. Triple in number every 24 hours
4. How long can food be left out at room temperature in a buffet line or on a picnic table before it runs the risk of developing harmful bacteria?
A. 30 minutes
B. 60 minutes
C. 2 hours
D. 3 hours
5. To what temperature should ground meat be cooked to ensure safety?
A. 155 degrees
B. 160 degrees
C. 165 degrees
D. 170 degrees
6. What population subset is most at-risk for foodborne illness?
C. Pregnant women
D. The elderly
7. True or false: Rinsing chicken before cooking helps reduce the amount of bacteria that may be present.
Answers: 1. C - Norovirus. With 5.4 million cases annually, this virus represents 58 percent of all foodborne illnesses in the U.S., dwarfing the incidence of salmonella (1 million cases per year, or 11 percent of instances of foodborne illness). E. coli doesn’t even make the list of top five foodborne pathogens by number of incidence. However, foodborne salmonella hospitalizes more people each year than foodborne norovirus and is the No. 1 deadly foodborne pathogen, killing nearly 400 people per year compared with about 150 who die of foodborne norovirus. The best protection from foodborne norovirus is following good hand hygiene (wash hands before and after handling food) and thoroughly washing all produce.
2. Both C and D are correct. Refrigerators should be set no higher than 40 degrees to keep food safe to eat (but get it to 32 and you’ll freeze the milk). Bacteria can grow quickly in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees — not cold enough to slow bacterial growth significantly, but not hot enough to kill it, either.
3. A - If provided optimal conditions — including food, moisture, oxygen and a warm temperature — bacteria can double every 20 minutes. That’s why food left on a summer buffet table or picnic table is rife with potential for harboring bacteria. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
4. C - 2 hours. After that, the risk of bacterial growth increases, so get those leftovers in the fridge.
5. B - While whole meats only need to be cooked to 145 degrees (with three minutes of resting time before serving), ground meats require a 160-degree finished temperature before serving. All poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.
6. Both C and D are correct. Pregnant women, the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to food poisoning.
7. False. Studies show that rinsing poultry mainly serves to increase the chance of spreading bacteria around the kitchen, where it may come in contact with other food. This cross-contamination is a major way foodborne illness is spread. The best way to reduce bacteria in chicken is to cook it to the correct temperature.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ConAngra Foods’ Home Food Safety