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The safe food kitchen.

Okay. So you already buy organic fruits and vegetables, antibiotic-free beef, nitrite-free bacon and cold cuts, and fish from clean waters.

You avoid raw shellfish, packaged foods mAth dubious colorings or preservatives, and microwaveable products that come in packages with special browning surfaces.

You eat a low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

And you poison yourself and your family by not knowing how to store, handle, and prepare all that wonderful food once you get it home from the market.

All right. Maybe we're exaggerating a little. But wouldn't it be a sin to let bacteria, viruses, molds, and other nasties destroy the health benefits of your good diet?

Well, don't do it. Keep a "Safe Food Kitchen." Here's how.

In the Fridge

Keep the temperature of your refrigerator just below 40* and your freezer at O*. Buy a thermometer and adjust your fridge's warm and cold knob until the temperature's right. * Put away leftovers as soon as possible, and certainly within two hours. Don't wait for them to cool. That just invites bacteria to multiply.

*Transfer food from hot pots and pans to containers before you put it in the fridge. Use the shallowest containers possible. The idea is to help the food cool quickly.

*In warm weather, keep whole-grain flour, crackers and breads in the refrigerator.

That helps protect their oils from becoming rancid.

* Don't keep raw fish in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours. Raw poultry will keep for one to two days, and red meat for three to five days. Leftovers should keep for about three to four days. Vacuum-sealed packages of luncheon meat will keep for about two weeks, but only five to seven days once opened.

In the Cupboard

*Store canned goods in a cool, dry place. That means not above the stove or under the sink.

*Throw out any cans that have dents, holes, rust, bulges, or leaks. lAvoid cans with seams that have been sealed using lead solder. The lead, which is extremely dangerous-especially for children and fetuses-can leach into the food. Feel along the seam through the label. If it feels bumpy, leave the can on the shelf. Chances are it has been soldered. Look for seamless cans or cans with welded seams. Welded seams feel smooth and even, and the metal around them is shiny (look at the seam between the label and the top or bottom rim of the can).

In a 1990 survey, companies reported using lead-soldered cans for domestic fish, vegetable oil, and peanut butter, and importing lead-soldered cans of mushrooms, fruits, fish, tomatoes, artichokes, pimientos, and water chestnuts. I Don't store acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus juices in open cans. If there is any lead in the solder, it can leach into the food.

There's a Fungus Among Us

if a food is moldy, don't smell it. Clean up around where it was stored, and check nearby foods to see if the mold has spread. I it's OK to cut away small moldy spots from hard cheese, salami, and firm fruits and vegetables like cabbage, bell peppers, and carrots. Keep your knife out of the mold, and cut out at least one inch around and below the spot. Store the food in a clean container, and use it as quickly as possible.

*You can scoop out tiny spots of mold from jelly or jam. Just make sure you wash the spoon carefully and then scoop out a larger area around the spot. If the jelly or jam tastes fermented, throw it out.

Invisible mold spores can easily penetrate soft foods, and some molds may contain cancer-causing toxins. That's why you should throw out these foods whenever you find mold on them, no matter how little: individual slices of cheese, any soft cheese (like mozzarella), cottage cheese, cream, sour cream, yogurt, bread, cake, rolls, pastry, corn on the cob, nuts, flour, whole grains, rice, dried peas and beans, peanut butter. Pots & Pans bAluminum. The evidence linking aluminum to Alzheimer's disease is not strong. Some-but not all-Alzheimer's patients have elevated levels of aluminum in their brains, but it isn't clear whether the metal is a cause or an effect of the disease. Alzheimer's appears to be on the rise, and more research needs to be done. But as of now there is not enough evidence to recommend that you throw out your aluminum pots and pans.

Cast Iron. It's safe, and can even add to your diet the iron that many-but not allpeople need more of.

Ceramic. The Food and Drug Administration says that ceramic cookware from China, Hong Kong, India, and Mexico may contain dangerous amounts of lead that can leach into your food. You can test your ceramics with a home lead-test kit (see "Dishes" below). OCopper. Don't use it if it's unlined. Acidic foods like tomatoes can cause copper to leach out of the pot and into your spaghetti sauce or whatever. And while we need a little copper in our diets, too much can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most copper cookware is lined with tin or stainless steel, which is fine. But when the coating eventually wears out, your pots and pans will have to be replaced or relined.

Stainless steel. Stainless appears to be safe. If you're one of the small fraction of people who are allergic to nickel, however, you should probably not use stainless to cook acidic foods like stewed tomatoes or rhubarb. The acid could leach nickel out of the cookware, which could aggravate your skin allergies.

Non-stick. Teflon, along with teflon-derived coatings like Silverstone and Supra, are chemically inert, which means they don't react with other substances. So if you happen to scratch the non-stick surface of your cookware (by using metal utensils by scrubbing too vigorously) and particles flake off into your food, they'll pass right through your body without being absorbed. Don't use non-stick cookware for broiling or leave them unattended on high heat, though. They can give off fumes that you're better off not breathing.

H i , h

The place for your grandmother's antique serving dish is in the display cabinet, not on the table. The same goes for that beautiful set of painted dinnerware you bought in Mexico or the soup tureen you picked up in Italy The FDA only started regulating lead in dishware in 19 7 1, so ceramic cups, bowls, and dishes made before then may not be safe. And all bets are off on imported ceramics. The one exception is china (imported as well as domestic), since it is fired at temperatures high enough to keep the lead from leaching out. OWhen Columbia University researchers tested lead crystal decanters and goblets last year, they found that the lead content of port wines that were stored in the decanters for four months jumped from 89 parts per billion (ppb) to between 2,162 and 5,331 ppb. They also found that, on average, lead levels doubled (33 ppb to 68 ppb) in white wine that had sat in lead crystal goblets for just an hour.

(The EPA requires a public water system to take action if the lead in ten percent of its tap water samples exceeds 15 ppb.)

Lead can leach from crystal into any liquid, not just alcohol. The FDA has warned people not to use lead crystal every day, and never to store food or beverages in it. Women of childbearing age and children shouldn't use lead crystal at all. kYou can use a home-test kit to check your ceramics, crystal, paint, or cans for high levels of lead. Just keep in mind that the tests aren't very sensitive, so if a home test doesn't detect any lead, it doesn't necessarily mean that the product is safe; it may still contain enough lead to harm a child or pregnant woman. Two kits that you can use, according to Consumer Reports, are Leadcheck Swabs HybriVet Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 1210, Framingham, Massachusetts 01701) and Frandon Lead Alert Kit Frandon Enterprises, 51 1 N. 48 St., Seattle, Washington 98103). They sell for $25 to $30.

M i c I 11 w 3 v r, I Use your microwave only if the door closes easily and tightly. Radiation leakage is not a problem in ovens made after 1971. Don't bother investing in a microwave radiation detector. If it costs less than a new microwave oven, it's probably not reliable. OTeach your kids good microwaving technique. Children have been burned by biting into microwaved jelly doughnuts that were cool to the touch, or by the steam escaping from a too-quickly-opened bag of microwave popcorn. To protect infants against burns, never warm milk in baby bottles in the microwave.

Unless you want to risk swallowing some plastic or glue with your food, stay away from microwaveable products with special "heat-susceptor" browning or crisping surfaces. That means most microwaveable popcorn, frozen pizzas, and french fries.

If you use plastic wrap in the microwave, don't let any food touch it during cooking. And never cook or heat food in flimsy plastic containers like yogurt cups or margarine tubs. Stick to oven-proof glass containers with glass tops.

Puncture foods like potatoes, tomatoes, and sausages. If not, they could explode.

The most common microwave mistake is not cooking foods long enough to kill all the bacteria. Use a temperature probe or meat thermometer to see that the internal temperature of beef and pork reaches at least 1601, that poultry reaches 180', and that fish reaches 140'. Reheat leftovers thoroughly, and follow any instructions that call for food to stand after you remove it from the oven (that allows it to finish cooking). I Don't cook whole, stuffed poultry in the microwave. The warm, moist stuffing and the microwave's tendency to cook unevenly are Bacteria Heaven. I Remove frozen foods from the store wrap or foam tray before you thaw them in the microwave. That helps prevent chemicals in the plastic from migrating into the food. OWhen you defrost food in the microwave, finish cooking it immediately. OVegetables are the perfect microwave foods. It takes less time to cook them and you use less water; both mean fewer vitamins and minerals lost. I Use the microwave to pre-cook red meat (on "High" for 30 to 90 seconds-discard the juices). Then finish cooking the meat right away, so bacteria don't have time to multiply. Pre-cooking helps reduce the formation of risky chemicals known as heterocyclic amines (HAs).

In and Around the Stove

Use a different spoon for stirring raw a cooked foods, and don't taste meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or shellfish if they're raw or while they're cooking. That includes raw cake or cookie batter that contains eggs. I Marinate and defrost foods in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Wash dirt and dust from the lids of cans before you open them. And wash your can opener regularly.

Never taste suspicious-looking or bad smelling foods. )When you reheat broths, gravies, soups, and stews, boil them for several minutes to kill any bacteria that may be present.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:A Chicken Little in our future?
Next Article:Lean, light, (not-so) hot dogs.

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