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By: Katie Burns   Date: 3/14/11

March marks National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme, as set by the American Dietetic Association, is “Eat Right with Color.”  As you have read on our blog, there are many ways to have a healthful and nutritious diet by incorporating foods rich in variety and color.  However, Claudia Stein of the World Health Organization emphasizes, “Food cannot be nutritious unless it is safe.”  With that, let’s explore ways to “Eat Right with Color” while recognizing the role of food safety.

When people think about both the color of foods and food safety, they likely think of a nice piece of meat on the grill.  It is a common misperception that one can determine that meat or poultry has reached a safe internal temperature, simply by checking the color.  In truth, a food thermometer is the only sure way to check whether a food product has been cooked to a safe internal temperature and is safe to eat. 

• Roasts, steaks and fish should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145⁰F;
• Ground meat should reach an internal temperature of at least 160⁰F;
• Chicken, turkey and other poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165⁰F, and
• Leftovers should also be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165⁰F.

Of course some people have an aversion to lots of pink in a piece of steak, even if it is cooked to its safe internal temperature.  For people who are influenced by the color of their meats, cook away the pink—just be sure that the finished product has reached the minimum safe internal temperature.  You are not at an increased risk by cooking your food to a higher internal temperature.  Check out our“Be Food Safe with Win” video for more information on how to prepare your food safely.

Another thought that may cross one’s mind when it comes to the color of food and food safety: those science experiments in the back of the refrigerator that once looked like leftovers.  While it’s a good idea to store your leftovers in the fridge, it’s not such a good idea to keep them there until they start to turn colors. To keep refrigerated foods free of bacteria, it is important to follow a few refrigerator safety steps:

• Keep your refrigerator at or below an internal temperature of 40⁰F;
• Wipe up any spills immediately with hot, soapy water;
• Label your leftovers with what they are and the date, and
• Discard your leftovers once they have been in the fridge for three or four days.

It is important to remember these few practical steps when preparing food for yourself, family or friends, as they are important to reduce food contamination and the risk of foodborne illness.  To learn more about foodborne illness and steps to prevent it, check out our “Consumers Guide to Food Safety Risks.”  Also, check out my other blog post on“Spring Cleaning your Fridge” and visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education for more information refrigerator safety.

So these are a few ideas on keeping the color in your food safe.  What others ways are you celebrating National Nutrition Month?


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