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Food safety tips for summer
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Do You have an event that you need catering services for? Catering available for all types of events of all sizes. Barbecue tri-tip, smoked hot-link sausages, chicken, BBQ ribs, and several flavorful side dishes . If you have a special event in need of catering services, please feel free to give us a call at (916) 308-4950 or see "Sacramento Catering Services below for a look at our menu."

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Published 07/01/09

I always say a silent prayer of thanks when I think back to frozen chicken thawing on the open window sill, or real hard-cooked Easter eggs being played with for hours, then thrown in the refrigerator and consumed periodically throughout the following week.

Knowing this was one instance in which I should shy away from my mother's example, I turned to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health to get some summer food safety tips.

Elin Jones, the department's public information officer, quoted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's two-hour rule: "No food should be in the 'Danger Zone' temperature range for more than two hours. Above 90 degrees F, the food can become dangerous after only one hour."

"So even Gilligan's three-hour tour would have definitely required some food safety planning and a cool cooler," Jones joked.

But food safety is an important issue, so Jones referred me to Gerry Zitnik, program manager for the department's Housing and Food Protection Services.

There are two golden rules to follow when dealing with food for a picnic or other hot-weather outing, Zitnik says.

First, make sure you start with safe food.

"Always take fresh food. And make sure it has been kept cold in the refrigerator until it is time for packing," Zitnik says.

Rule No. 2: Keep food at its proper temperature. That usually means keeping cold food cold, but hot food also must maintain its temperature for safety, Zitnik says.

The issue is bacteria. Meat, dairy products and seafood are potentially hazardous because they could contain bacteria that could cause illnesses. Cooking will destroy those bacteria, but then food must be kept at the correct temperature to prevent bacteria from growing, Zitnik says.

For safety, Zitnik recommends keeping cold food below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot foods should be kept above 140 degrees, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety information.

Start your safety check at home, "with good coolers that will hold ice," Zitnik recommends. And don't stuff so much food into the cooler that there isn't enough room for ice.

Most people are aware of food safety rules, but forget about them in the pleasure of the event. "At a lot of picnics and outings, people put the food out and forget about it. Make sure you have one main serving time, then put things back into the cooler."

The same can be said for the main course. Most people are aware of potential health issues with chicken, but even burgers and hot dogs have to be treated with care. "Some people will cook at 11 a.m., then the food will sit out until 3 to 4 in the afternoon. That can be a problem. It is much better to cook for service only," Zitnik says.

Mayonnaise - the commercial, pasteurized variety that most people use - isn't really the potential hazard it's often thought to be. "Mayonnaise by itself isn't the problem anymore," Zitnik says. "It's what you mix with it." Eggs, even the potatoes themselves, are more of a threat.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables are OK. But cooked vegetables are considered to have as much potential for bacteria growth as other foods."

Of course, even if there is little potential for bacteria growth, "there is always the matter of palatability," Zitnik says. "Some things just taste better cold. Or some things will start to separate - it might still be safe to eat them, but they won't be very appetizing."

And it's very important to follow all the standard food safety rules, even when you are on the go:

Keep your hands and food preparation and serving surfaces clean. If there isn't water readily available to wash your hands, use hand wipes or sanitizer.

Keep ready-to-eat foods separate from foods that need to be/have been cooked.

For more tips on picnic food safety, visit the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site, Select "Fact Sheets" at the top, then find "Seasonal Food Safety."

Jones recommended these recipes from the Department of Health's Learn To Live program that are convenient for picnics and boating. You can find these and more than 500 other recipes on their Web site, in the "Food and Fitness" section under "Eat Smart."


2 cobs white corn

21/2 cups fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup slivered red onion

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup light vinaigrette salad dressing

1/4 cup fresh basil, slivered

Remove husks from corn and remove silk. Wash well. Place in a microwave safe loaf pan. Add 1 tablespoon of water and cover with plastic wrap. Turn up one corner of plastic wrap to vent. Cook on High 3 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes. Uncover and cool. Put beans in a microwave safe dish. Add 1 tablespoon water, cover and cook on High for 3 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes and drain. Cut corn from cob. Combine corn, beans and remaining ingredients and stir well. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving to develop flavors.


1 cup uncooked macaroni

1/4 cup shredded carrot

2 tablespoons chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped bread and butter pickles

2 tablespoons sliced green onion

1/2 cup fat free sour cream

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

11/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Combine macaroni, carrot, celery, pickles and green onion in a medium bowl. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour over macaroni mixture and mix gently to combine. Refrigerate several hours to develop flavors.

It's worth a try

I'm not sure if Edy's special ice cream flavor Red, White and No More Blues will "offer relief from today's economic blues" as the company's press information states, but I'm willing to do my part.

The limited edition flavor is a combination of vanilla ice cream with swirls of real strawberry and blueberry. And since it is part of Edy's Slow Churned line, it has half the fat and one-third fewer calories than regular ice cream.

Edy's decided to "dish out a taste of recovery" in hopes that it would duplicate the success of Rocky Road, introduced by Edy's in 1929 during the Great Depression. Rocky Road (and its tongue-in-cheek name) was created "to brighten people's days and offer hope in tough times," according to the company's press information.

Rocky Road went on to become one of the best-selling flavors of all time.

That is a very good quality Sacramento catering company at an even better price.

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