At White River Valley, students can study basic cooking skills in Nutrition and Wellness. In order to prepare for the cooking labs many concepts are covered, one of which is food safety. Students investigate bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness. They present their learnings so all students hear about the many pathogens. Things like campylobacter, clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli (E. coli), hepatitis A, listeria, salmonella and staphylococcus aureus.
We learn where these are likely to be found, symptoms of contracting, and prevention methods. In the end students are completely disgusted and ready to learn how to prevent these foodborne illnesses from ever happening.
There are four things the home cook can do to prevent foodborne illness: clean, separate, cook and chill.
• Clean. When you walk into the kitchen, the first thing you should always do is wash your hands. Wash hands for 20 seconds making sure to get front, back and in between. Then wash your hands after doing any of the following: touch your face, pet the dog, crack an egg, chop up raw meat or use the bathroom. Also, be sure to rinse all fresh produce in cold water and clean all surfaces after cooking.
• Separate, don’t contaminate. When grocery shopping, storing food and preparing dishes keep raw meats and their juices separate from other foods. In the WRV FACS kitchens we have specific cutting boards for products: blue for raw seafood, red for raw meat, green for fruits and vegetables, yellow for raw poultry and brown for cooked meat.
• Cooking to the correct internal temperature is also important in preventing foodborne illness. In the FACS kitchens all cooked meat is checked with a digital meat thermometer. This is such a handy tool and I use one at home as well since color is not a reliable measure. When in doubt, cook to 165 degrees internal temperature. When serving food keep it hot, over 140 degrees.
• Chill to prevent bacteria from multiplying. Keep cold foods cold, under 40 degrees. Remember the two hour rule: refrigerator leftovers within two hours. Thaw foods in a way to prevent them from being in the temperature danger zone, 40 to 140 degrees. Your best bet is to allow products to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If you need it to thaw a bit faster, put it in cold water in a bowl, but make sure the water stays under 40 degrees. If you are in a real hurry, you can thaw foods in the microwave.
Nutrition and Wellness students admitted that they learned techniques they can use in their own kitchens.
Remember: only you can prevent foodborne illness.
Betsy Misner has been the Family and Consumer Science, formerly Home Economics, teacher at White River Valley for over a decade. Her motivation is helping students to strive for strong, happy, healthy families and providing career pathways. Check out more of what is happening in the classroom by following her on Twitter: WRVFACS@BetsyMisner