Summer Time, Flies and Food Safety

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Have you ever walked up to a restaurant where they leave the front door wide open? Well next time turn around! There are probably flies in this establishment.

Flies are not just a nuisance, large flies can present a serious food safety concern. Large flies including houseflies, bottle/blow flies and flesh flies are also called “filth flies” because they breed in filth such as manure, human excreta, dumpsters, garbage, and decaying vegetation, causing a major food safety risk.

What happens when a fly lands on your food?

A filth fly’s mouth looks like a soda straw so it can’t chomp into your hot dog like you do. It lands on your bun, spits on it, uses its legs to mash up what it just spit on, and then sucks it back up through its soda-straw mouth. At the same time, it can transfer E-coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Norovirus, or any number of other bacteria to that hot dog that you are about to eat. Like many pests, a fly doesn’t have any bladder control, so it might also leave excrement on your bun!

Avoid restaurants with open doors

Physical control methods should be prioritized. Flies should be prevented from entering a building in the first instance. All outside doors should never be wedged or held open. The only way to keep flies out of a food establishment is to create a physical barrier between the outside and the food service area. Also the outside of the building should be kept clean.

So before taking a bite of that burger that the fly landed on think about what flies like to land on: Dead things, poop, rotting food, and dumpsters. Next time you see a fly about, kill it quick. You might be preventing your family from getting sick.

Jasmine Davenport-Murray REHS

CEO of ARF Food Safety Consulting Group

Best Buy vs Sell By vs Use By vs Expiration Dates?

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Unfortunately confusion over date labeling leads to billions of pounds of food waste every year.
Why does it matter? Americans are throwing out at least 161 billion dollars in food each year. The average American family throws away 40% of their food. In terms of money, that’s hundreds every year in meats, fruit, vegetables and grain products. We will explain the difference between “use-by,” “sell-by,” and “best-by” dates.

Use-By/Best Buy

“Use by” date has a similar meaning to “best if used by.” It means the product will have the best qualities if consumed by the date noted. The USDA prefers manufacturers to add “best” to this phrase.
It means the product should retain maximum freshness, flavor, and texture if used by this date. It is not a purchase-by or safety date.
Beyond this date, the product begins to deteriorate, although it may still be edible.

This label is aimed to retailers, and it informs them of the date by which the product should be sold or removed from shelf life. This does not mean that the product is unsafe to consume after the date. Typically one-third of a product’s shelf-life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to use at home.

Expiration Date
This phrasing is often present on packaging for meats and some dairy as some states require an expiration date on meat or milk. It’s best not to use the product past this listed date in those cases as it signifies when the food most likely will spoil. For other food items, the manufacturer may have simply chosen to use “expires by” instead of “best if used by” to warn that the product may be stale or have lost its flavor by that date. Check all food carefully for signs of spoilage.

Safe Handling is Key
Even if a product is well within its “sell-by” or “use-by” date, it can become unsafe for consumption if handled or stored incorrectly. Make sure to keep refrigerated foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the unrefrigerated time, such as during transport, to less than two hours.

Fresh meat or produce should be handled safely to prevent cross-contamination from bacteria, which, if allowed to grow, can make any food unsafe, regardless of how fresh it is. Dry goods should be kept away from heat and moisture to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold.

If, at any time, your food takes on an off odor or appearance, the packaging begins to bulge, or is otherwise compromised, it is best to play it safe and avoid consumption. When purchasing meat, poultry or fish the flesh should be moist never dry, never sticky and the flesh should spring back when touched. Not all bacteria responsible for food-borne illness produce odors or visual evidence of their presence, so these clues should not be used exclusively to determine the safety of your food.

Condiment Safety: Do condiments need to be refrigerated?

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Well….. The answer to this question is not totally straightforward. This is because acidity, salt and sugar (which ketchup has) tend to keep things safe on the shelf. The higher the salt and sugar concentrations decrease chances of bacterial growth. Let us explore other widely used condiments.

Even though butter is technically a dairy product and we can all agree dairy should definitely be kept cold, the FDA makes an exception for butter. Why? Unlike its milk and cream relatives, butter is not a Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) food, which means it can be eaten and stored safely at room temperature.

You may buy mayonnaise off a non-refrigerated shelf, but the second you pop the top, you must put it in the refrigerator. In fact, the USDA recommends opened mayo be tossed in the trash if its temperature reaches 50 degrees or higher for more than eight hours.

Hot sauce
This pantry staple can stay put. There’s little risk in not refrigerating hot sauce even after its opened, thanks to two key ingredients, vinegar and salt, which act as preservatives for up to eight weeks after its opened. But if you want to extend its shelf life, you can keep hot sauce in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Dijon Mustard
You (probably) paid a pretty penny for the special spicy punch of Dijon mustard—and if you don’t put it in the refrigerator, you could, as mustard giant French’s says, ruin its flavor profile. So while Dijon mustard won’t necessary spoil at room temperature, you’ll get more bang for your buck by keeping it in the fridge after it’s opened.

Not only is this sweet syrup totally safe to eat straight from the pantry, but you could be making it difficult to use if you put it in the refrigerator. As it cools, honey thickens—and it quickly becomes all-but-impossible to squirt out until it returns to room temperature once more.

Peanut butter
With the exception of natural peanut butters, this nutty spread can be safely kept in your cupboard for up to three months after its opened. But beware: because peanut butter has few preservatives, it can easily degrade. One easy way to keep it in tip-top shape is to use a clean utensil every time you scoop from the jar.

Soy sauce
It is best to move this salty product to your refrigerator once it’s opened. There, it can remain in its cool condition for a good 2 years—even though we know you’ll use it faster than that.

Olive oil
This go-to cooking ingredient last the exact same amount of time whether you keep it in your cupboard or in your refrigerator. (For the record, it’s about 12 months.) So we say keep it in a cool, dark place; it tastes better at room temperature anyway.

Salad dressing
It may be obvious to store creamy ranch dressing on your refrigerator’s shelf, but oily dressings such as Italian or a vinaigrette should be kept cold after opening too. That’s because their key ingredients—think things such as shallots and citrus juice—will go rancid without refrigeration.