Tuesday, February 11, 2020

2020 Food Safety Forum

The Health Department is hosting an informational meeting regarding the top food safety violations in Pueblo for 2019, new enforcement policies for 2020, and how we are working to cut down on illegal food vendors.

We want to hear your feedback. Please join us to help us continue to ensure food safety in the pueblo community.

RSVP by Friday, February 25, 2020
(719) 583-4307

Free snacks and giveaways! 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Changes to Colorado's Retail Food Establishment Inspection and Enforcement Process

Changes to Colorado’s Retail Food Establishment Inspection and Enforcement Process

December 10, 2019 Pueblo, CO-Public Health Officials announced effective January 1, 2020, there will be changes to Colorado’s retail food establishment inspection and enforcement process, as enacted in House Bill 19-1014.
“The changes will ensure the safety and prevention of foodborne illnesses in food provided at retail food establishments in Colorado,” stated Vicki Carlton, program manager at the Pueblo
Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE).

A summary of key changes and support available is provided below:
• Inspections will be based on a point system. Violations more critical to health and safety, i.e.
those which contribute most directly to food-borne illness or injury, will have the highest
point values.
• Violations will be ranked on a low, medium, or high severity/prevalence scale of the
observed conditions during an inspection. The more severe and prevalent the violation, the
higher the point value.
• The total points of an inspection will determine one of the following results: “Pass”, “ReInspection”, or “Imminent Hazard/Closure”. Closure of an establishment, i.e. “Imminent
Hazard/Closure” result, could occur from a high point value, conditions which meet the
definition of imminent health hazard or multiple inspections which do not “Pass”.
• The definition of an "imminent health hazard” includes fire, flood, extended interruption of
electricity or water, sewage backup, misuse of toxic/poisonous materials, onset of a
foodborne illness, grossly unsanitary conditions or other circumstances that may endanger
public health.
• A retail food establishment which does not “Pass” four consecutive (or four out of five)
inspections could be closed for up to three days and is subject to a civil penalty not to
exceed $1,000.
• The minimum amount for a civil penalty has been removed and the maximum amount of
$1,000 for inspection violations has been established.
• The bill clarifies it is against the law to continue to operate a retail food establishment after
its license or certificate of license is suspended.
• If an establishment is closed due to an imminent health hazard, Pueblo Department of
Public Health and Environment must approve it to reopen.

“There are nearly 1,000 retail food establishments in Pueblo County. At PDPHE, food safety is a top priority. Routine inspections protect the public's health by assuring food safety practices are in place food service establishments comply with state laws and regulations,” explained Carlton. Carlton added, “Inspections also help protect retail food establishment owners. For example, when potential problems are identified quickly, they can be addressed, and the business can continue to operate safely. PDPHE uses inspections as an opportunity to educate owners/managers about important health and safety issues and how to prevent them.”

“We understand these are significant changes and we aim to be a resource for all Pueblo County retail food establishments to make this an easy transition,” stated Carlton.
Please contact the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment with any questions you may have at 719-583-4307. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Winter Holiday Food Safety

As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous. Follow these steps to keep your holiday season food poisoning-free.

Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:

  1. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
  2. Buy cold foods last.
  3. Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate bag.

Steps to follow during food preparation:

  1. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
  2. Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  3. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 ˚F with a three minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 ˚F; ground beef, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 160 ˚F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 ˚F; and all poultry should be cooked to 165 ˚F.

Fool proof tips when cooking for groups:

  1. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold, using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 ˚F and cold items should remain below 40 ˚F.
  2. Use several small plates when serving food.
  3. Discard perishable foods left out for 2 hours or more.

Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:

  1. Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross-contamination.
  2. Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
  3. To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145 ˚F, the roast is safe to eat.
  4. Remember all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three minute rest time before cutting or consuming.

General Information
Mail-Order Food Safety (USDA)
Checklists for ensuring that foods you send and receive by mail are safe.

Chart: Safe Handling of Mail-Order Foods (USDA)
Storage recommendations for mail-order meats, seafood, cheeses, fruits, and more.

Mailing and Receiving a Perishable Food Gift (FDA)
How to be sure that food arrives safely during holiday shipping.

Holiday or Party Buffets (USDA)
When foods are left out for long periods, you may have uninvited guests — bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Brochure (PDF - 105KB)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Halloween Food Safety Tips

Even though it’s not an official holiday, Halloween is much beloved by children and adults alike. What could be more fun than trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, or costume parties?

Halloween Pumpkin with candy to make sure treats are safe for children, follow these simple steps:

Snacking: Children shouldn’t snack on treats from their goody bags while they’re out trick-or-treating. Give them a light meal or snack before they head out – don’t send them out on an empty stomach. Urge them to wait until they get home and let you inspect their loot before they eat any of it.
Safe treats: Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
Food Allergies: If your child has a food allergy, check the label to ensure the allergen isn’t present. Do not allow the child to eat any home-baked goods he or she may have received.
Choking hazards: If you have very young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.

Bobbing for apples is an all-time favorite Halloween game. Here are a couple of ways to say “boo” to bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

Try this new spin on apple bobbing from FightBAC.org: 

Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. On each apple, write activities for kids, such as “do 5 jumping jacks.” Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string. Let the children take turns “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple. Give children a fresh apple for participating.

If your idea of Halloween fun is a party at home, don’t forget these tips:

Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties.
No matter how tempting, don't taste raw cookie dough or cake batter that contains uncooked eggs.

“Scare" bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings.

Bacteria will creep up on you if you let foods sit out too long. Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Keep Your Roasted Chilies Safe

Keep Your Roasted Chilies Safe!

It’s green chile season in Pueblo! All the local farms are harvesting Pueblo chile, firing up their roasters and chile is in the air.  Since numerous people make green chile and use it all year, it’s likely you will purchase bushels of chile and prepare them for frozen storage. Roasted chiles are a potentially hazardous food and will be hot upon purchase.  It is essential you follow rapid cooling to prepare roasted green chiles for storage. Roasted green chiles must be processed and cooled right away.  Once rapid cooling has been accomplished you can cold hold chiles or freeze them for long-term storage to enjoy all year.

Whether you prefer mild or hot, you can select and process chiles safely to add spice to your meals.  For safety and quality, follow these tips:
  • Roasted chiles should be put in a food-grade plastic bag (not a trash bag), or other food-safe container.
  • Take chiles home in a chilled ice chest within 2 hours of roasting.
  • Within 2 hours of roasting, peppers should be cooled to 70° and then to 41° in an additional 4 hours (cold holding temperature) in an ice bath or refrigerator.  Divide into small batches for quick cooling and use a food thermometer to confirm.
  • To freeze, pack chiles in plastic bags, heavy aluminum foil or freezer wrap. Remove excess air.
  • Freeze chiles to 0°F immediately after packing. Leave a little space between packages for air circulation.
  • Label and date packages.
  • Bacteria can live during freezer storage.  So thaw chiles in a refrigerator! Bacteria can revive, grow and cause an illness.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wrap up your celebration with fireworks, not food poisoning

An estimated 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness in America each year; that means 1 in 6 ill people, with roughly 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths according to the CDC. Public health and food safety urge the public to heed these tips for a happy holiday.
Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or traveling for a tasty time with friends and family, grilling in the great outdoors requires some planning precautions for a Fourth of July free of food poisoning.
Since foodborne bacteria thrives and multiples in warmer temperatures, Fourth of July festivities can be a hotbed for foodborne illness. The Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F in which foodborne bacteria can grow rapidly to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Leaving food out in the Danger Zone for too long is one of the most common mistakes that people make.
The USDA’s food safety experts from the Meat and Poultry Hotline routinely help consumers asking about perishable foods being left out too long. Below are their recommendations on how to avoid the Danger Zone this Fourth:
  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours if the temperature is at or below 90 ⁰F, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90 ⁰F. Since the weather will likely be very hot on July 4th, food should be returned to the cooler within an hour. If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out immediately.
  • Always keep cold food COLD, at or below 40°F,in coolers or in containers with a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers, heated chafing dishes, warming trays and/or slow cookers. If food needs to be reheated, reheat it to 165 °F.
  • Pack an appliance thermometer in your cooler to ensure food stays at or below 40 °F. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently. Keep the cooler in the shade, and try to cover it with a blanket or tarp to keep it cool. Replenish the ice if it melts.
  • Use the food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, and seafood, and read below for more specific information.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator – not on the counter. If you plan to reuse the marinade from raw meat or poultry, make sure to boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.
With people spending more time handling, preparing, and serving food outside, they are away from the sink, and clean food surfaces and kitchen equipment.
Many people think the inside color of grilled burgers (pink or brown) indicates if they’re safe to eat. However, the USDA has shown that one out of every four hamburgers turns brown before it has reached a safe internal temperature. Using a thermometer is the only way to know if cooked meat is safe to consume. With that being said, the FDA has found that only 23% of those who own a food thermometer use it when cooking burgers.
With consumers spending an estimated $400 million on beef in preparation for the holiday, these four food safety tips will help you keep foodborne illness away from your fun:
  • Clean: Make sure you clean all surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water.
  • Separate: When grilling, use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods (like raw vegetables) to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook: We’ll say it again and again, cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer; the only way to know it’s a safe temperature. Remember, burgers should be cooked to 160°F.
  • Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly if not consuming after cooking. Again, you shouldn’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F), so if you’re away from home, make sure you bring a cooler to store those leftovers.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend Food Safety


Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and with warmer weather on the way, many Puebloans will be firing up their grill and celebrating with cookouts, picnics and other activities.

Summer is typically a time of creating fun-filled memories and delicious meals; however, if the meal is not prepared properly, it could be a source of foodborne disease. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service, foodborne illness peaks during the summer months, as harmful bacteria tend to grow faster in warmer, more humid weather.
Food safety isn’t just for food manufacturing facilities or restaurants; it is important for consumers to be mindful of food safety in the home, as well as preparing meals away from the home. Using good food-handling practices and cooking foods to proper temperatures are just a couple of reminders to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment suggests the following food safety tips when celebrating this Memorial Day weekend.

Preparing foods for the grill

  • Completely thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator before grilling, so it cooks evenly.
  • Never thaw raw meats on a countertop or in a sink. Thawing at room temperature increases the risk of bacteria growth at the surface of the meat, even though the interior may still be chilled.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, where bacteria can multiply.
  • Discard leftover marinade. Do not use it on cooked foods as a dressing or dipping sauce because it could contain bacteria.
  • Do not use the same utensils, platters and basting brushes for both raw and cooked meat. Juices from the raw meat may contaminate cooked food.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing any food product.

Cooking food on the grill
  • Use a food thermometer to make certain the meat is thoroughly cooked.
  • Cook meat to proper temperatures by using the following internal temperature guide:
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal: 145 degrees Fahrenheit (Allow 3 minutes to rest before consuming).
    • Ground meats: 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Chicken: 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Picnic cookouts and barbecues
  • Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food also can be used as a cold source.
  • A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
  • Avoid repeatedly opening the cooler so your food stays cold longer.
  • Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, seafood, deli and luncheon meats, sandwiches, summer salads, cut-up fruit and vegetables and perishable dairy products.
  • Keep foods such as cooked hamburgers and hotdogs, condiments, cheese slices and others, covered with a clear cover or wrap to prevent flies from landing and spreading their germs.

Storing and eating leftovers
  • Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking is complete.
  • Leftovers should be divided into smaller portions and stored in shallow, airtight containers. They should be eaten within 3 to 4 days.
  • If large amounts are left, consider freezing for later use. Do not wait until the leftovers have been in the refrigerator for several days to freeze. Frozen leftovers should be eaten within 6 months.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and never taste leftover foods that look or smell strange.
For more information follow us on Facebook, twitter and Instagram at @pueblohealth. If you have specific food safety questions this summer, you can call the USDA Meat and 
Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish

Monday, May 20, 2019

Why You Should Not Feed Your Pet Raw Foods

Pet Food Safety

A healthy diet is important for everyone, even your pets! When picking out the right food for your pet, there are important things to consider.

Raw pet foods can make pets and people sick

CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. Germs like Salmonella and Listeriabacteria have been found in raw pet foods, even packaged ones sold in stores. These germs can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.

What about dry and canned pet food?

Dry and canned pet food also can be contaminated with germs. Before making any changes to your pet’s diet, talk with your veterinarian.
Tips to stay healthy while feeding your pet
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water right after handling pet food or treats; this is the most important step to prevent illness.
  • When possible, store pet food and treats away from where human food is stored or prepared and away from reach of young children.
  • Don’t use your pet’s feeding bowl to scoop food. Use a clean, dedicated scoop, spoon, or cup.
  • Always follow any storage instructions on pet food bags or containers.

If you decide to feed your pet raw food

Wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw pet food.
CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets, but if you do:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water right after handling any raw pet food.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces that the raw food touched, like countertops, microwaves, refrigerators and objects like knives, forks, and bowls.

Safely store and handle raw pet food
  • Freeze raw pet food until you are ready to use it.
  • Keep raw pet food away from other food in your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Don’t thaw frozen raw pet foods on a countertop or in a sink.
  • Throw away any food your pet doesn’t eat.

Safely play with your pet after he or she eats

  • Don’t let your pet lick around your mouth and face after eating.
  • If you do play with your pet after they have just eaten, wash your hands, and any other parts of your body they licked, with soap and water.
  • Don’t let your pet lick many of your open wounds or areas with broken skin.

If you feed your pet reptile or amphibian frozen or live rodents

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling frozen or live feeder rodents.
  • Thaw frozen feeder rodents in a dedicated container out of the kitchen.
  • Never feed wild rodents to your pet.

Children and pets

  • Young children are at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.
  • Children younger than 5 years old should not touch or eat pet food, treats, or supplements.
  • Adults should supervise young children when washing hands.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019



A true “Grill Master” always knows to clean, separate, cook and chill to ensure a pleasant cookout for all.

Get the Grill Master Poster 
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. Don’t use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinade before applying to cooked food or reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
  • When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 or 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
  • If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
  • When it’s time to grill the food, cook it to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat and should not be touching bone, fat, or gristle. Check the temperature in several places to make sure the food is evenly heated.
    • Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts: 145 °F for medium rare and 160 °F for medium.
    • Ground pork and ground beef: 160 °F.
    • Poultry: to at least 165 °F.
    • Fin fish: 145 °F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
    • Shrimp, lobster and crabs: The meat should be pearly and opaque.
    • Clams, oysters and mussels: Until the shells are open.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Be sure to have plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand.
  • Grilled food can be kept hot until serving by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals to avoid overcooking.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact:
  • The Pueblo City-County Health Department at 719-583-4307 or visit the Dish Pueblo
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at                             1- 888-MPHotline  (1-888-674-6854). TTY 1-800-256-7072.
  • The Fight BAC!® Web site at www.fightbac.org
  • Gateway to Government Food Safety Information at foodsafety.gov

Monday, April 29, 2019

Why do we cook raw ground beef to 155 degrees F?

On April 24, 2019, 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef were recalled after testing positive for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O1O3 (E. coli O1O3, for short).  CDC data shows 10 states have a combined total of 156 reported cases with 20 of those resulting in hospitalizations. Cases after March 26, 2019, have not been added to this count, due to the amount of time the average individual takes to report an illness after becoming ill. The individuals reported consuming ground beef in homes and in restaurants.  The recall is classified as a Class I recall, meaning all the suspected items need to be removed from stores and homes, due to the risk of death and other serious health risks.

According to Food Safety News, the raw ground beef items were produced on March 26, March 29, April 2, April 5, April 10, and April 12, 2019. The following products are subject to recall: Two 24-lb. vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes containing raw “GROUND BEEF PUCK” with “Use Thru” dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19, and 4/30/19. The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 51308” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the boxes. These items were shipped to distributors in Ft. Orange, Fla. and Norcross, Ga. for further distribution to restaurants.
Returning recalled meat to the grocery store or throwing it away is the best way to prevent illness once a recall has taken place. This recall should not stop individuals from consuming properly cooked meat in the future or meat not included in the recall. Remember, food safety guidelines for everyday cooking are meant to cook and handle food as if it is already contaminated with bacteria. Those preventative measures can eliminate the risk of illness if followed properly.

For example, cooking raw, ground meat to at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds can kill bacteria, such as E. coli, that is potentially in the meat. Cooking raw, ground meat to a temperature less than 155 degrees Fahrenheit is considered undercooking and carries the risk of causing illness for those who consume that food. While refrigerating and freezing raw meat is important for safety and quality, it’s crucial to note that keeping food at safe refrigeration temperatures of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less, does not kill bacteria, it only slows bacterial growth. That is why it is critical to properly cook foods to reduce harmful bacteria to levels that will not make individuals sick.

In the wake of a large recall, keep in mind all the measures that keep our food safe every day. Don’t forget to prevent spreading bacteria from raw meat by storing raw meat below already cooked foods. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces after raw meat is handled with soapy water and add in the extra sanitizing step when necessary. Most of all, remember to enjoy your properly cooked and handled food! Illnesses and recalls can be scary, but anyone can fight bacteria with a bit of food safety education that will keep their family safe for every meal. 
If you have further questions about recalls, proper food cook temperatures, or other food safety questions please check out the topics at the top of the webpage or call us at 719-583-4307.