If dinner at your favorite restaurant is part of your Valentine’s Day plan, be sure food safety is on the menu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared food safety tips for dining out so it is a memorable meal for the right reasons.
- Check for cleanliness. Choose a dining establishment that is well maintained, inside and out! This includes clean tables, silverware and dishware; well-groomed servers; adequate screening over doors and windows to keep insects out; a well-maintained building; and clean restrooms. It really is true what your mother told you!
- Order food that’s properly cooked. Certain foods, including meat, poultry, and fish, need to be cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful germs that may be present. If you’re served undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs, don’t hesitate to send them back to be cooked until they are safe to eat.
- Avoid food served lukewarm. Cold food should be served cold, and hot food should be served hot. If you’re selecting food from a buffet or salad bar, make sure that the hot food is steaming, and the cold food is chilled. Germs that cause food poisoning grow quickly when food is in the danger zone, between 40˚F and 140˚F.
- Ask your server if they use pasteurized eggs in foods such as Caesar salad dressing, custards, or hollandaise sauce. Raw or undercooked eggs can make you sick unless they’re pasteurized to kill germs. [For custards and hollandaise sauce, thorough cooking will also ensure safety.]
- Take care of your leftovers quickly. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers from your memorable meal, refrigerate within two hours of leaving the restaurant. If it is above 90ºF outside, refrigerate leftovers within one hour. Eat leftovers within three to four days. Throw them out after that time.
And if you have food allergies, be sure to inquire about the ingredients in menu items and alert your server to avoid cross-contamination. Practicing a few food safety tips will ensure that the memories from your special day will be good ones! Stay food safe. Barb