Just Leave Out the Poison: Food Safety Should Not Be A Mystery This Easter

Apr 4, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Joan Leotta

If you find a reference to a recipe in one of my short stories, you can be sure that if I offer it to you, (attached or as BOGO) I will leave out the poison! Hope that line has made you smile.

Joan Leotta

However, it is a fact, that many of us actually do “poison” friends and family by using unsafe food handling. Actual data (2018) from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that one in six Americans (48 million people) are affected by foodborne illness annually. Sadly, 3,000 die. Not insignificant.

Food safety is not always in our control (tainted products), but daily safe handling practices can drastically reduce your chances of becoming ill. Spring holiday feasts, even virtual ones can be a source of problems. Also, hoarding food may push us to keeping foods, even cooked ones, longer than we should.

Below are some tips.

Safe Shopping
1. Purchase the freshest ingredients possible.
2. Wash vegetables carefully.veggies
3. Clean outside of packages before refrigerating.

When You Start
1. Wash Your Hands
2. Clean all counters and surfaces.
3. Use a separate cutting board for meat and other items
4. Wash hands during the prep as often as needed but especially after handling raw meat—before you touch anything else.
Preparing Items ahead of time
1. For items prepared ahead, remember to keep cold things cold, and warm things warm.
2. Special note on eggs–(Many spring holiday celebrations call for hard-boiled eggs) Dyed as Easter eggs or made into deviled eggs. According to the Egg Council, refrigerate hard-boiled eggs in their shells promptly after cooling and use them within one week. Deviled eggs can keep for two days in the refrigerator.deviled eggs
3. See leftover advice, below, for how long you can keep items prepared ahead, and how. If you need to keep something longer, freeze it.

1. Cook meat to recommended temperature for each type. Poultry especially. Use a thermometer to check the internal temp of the meat. This chart will help: foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature
2. With anything, be sure to add leave any eggs or other dairy in refrigerator until just before using.
3. Cook vegetables with care not to contaminate with raw meat. Wash first but cook through to kill germs.

Serving and Eating
1. Be sure everyone washes hands before eating.
2. Serve hot things hot and cold things cold.
3. Either make up the plates in the kitchen or,
4. Use serving utensils if passing around a common platter. Do not touch items with hands.

After the Meal, Clearing the Table, Holding the leftovers
While it is tempting to just let things sit on a kitchen counter while the family is gathered around the table laughing, talking and eating dessert, take the time to refrigerate all leftovers before serving coffee and dessert. Have a bowl of fresh grapes or other washed fruit ready to put on the table while the crowd is waiting for dessert. Cooked food sitting at room temperature is in what the USDA calls the “Danger Zone,” which is between 40°F and 140°F. In this range of temperatures, bacteria grows rapidly and the food can become unsafe to eat, so it should only be left out no more than two hours.

Storing and Using Leftovers
1. Put everything away within two hours.
2. Seal each item in storage containers to keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other food in the refrigerator.
3. Things made with meats or vegetables, soups and stews may be refrigerated safely for 3-4 days and frozen safely for 2-3 months. Cooked fresh vegetables keep well for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

So, have a tasty and safe holiday meal. As my people say, “Mangia bene” and safely too.

You can find some of Joan’s mystery short stories her in KRL. Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our mystery podcast! There is even an episode featuring a short story by Joan!

Or if reading this online, you can listen with this player to Joan’s episode:


Joan Leotta writes mysteries, poems, articles and essays from her home in Calabash, NC. She is also a story performer and travels about telling tales of food, family and strong women. She also offers a one woman show featuring Louisa May Alcott as a Civil War Nurse. Her blog, joanleottarecipes.com features recipes for food mentioned in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series and her own reflections of many trips to Sicily. She is putting together an ebook of mystery stories under the title Just Leave Out the Poison. Watch for it.


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