Monday, August 6, 2018

Back to School Food Safety Tips

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle, or back in the car for parents. The new school year means it’s back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is bacteria.
Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, follow the four steps to food safety:
1.    Clean
2.    Separate
3.    Cook
4.    Chill.
Before you start preparing lunch:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm or hot water for at least 20 seconds before AND after handling food.
  • Avoid handling cellphones and other electronic devices, mail, keys, and bags during food prep. Keep these items off food preparation and eating surfaces.
  • Always use clean spoons, forks, plates, and cutting boards. Remember to use separate cutting boards – one for fruits and vegetables and the other for meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Remember the 2-Hour rule: you must keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs (also known as perishables) only last two hours at room temperature of 90° F or below before they are unsafe to eat. If the room temperature exceeds 90° F, the perishables will only last one hour before they must march back into the refrigerator or freezer.

While preparing lunch:

Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water. Pack only the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime. That way, there won’t be a problem scrambling to store leftovers safely.
It’s fine to prepare food the night before, but pack lunch bags before leaving home. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. It’s advised not to freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these items later.

Packing Tips

If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources such as frozen gel packs or frozen bottles of water. Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won't stay safe long. 

DIY Freezer Packs

Pictured above is an easy backup to your ice packs, especially if packing a lot of lunchboxes or filling a big cooler. The idea is simple: Wet individual sponges, squeeze out excess water, drop them in a sealed baggie, and freeze. These packs are less bulky than traditional ones, making them perfect for even the littlest of lunch boxes. 
  •  Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag. 
  •  If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot at 140° F or above. 
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.
Storage Tips
 If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
Eating and Disposal Tips
  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging as it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
Follow these tips and you’ll keep bacteria out of your lunchbox! Make sure to share with your loved ones and friends!  


Turkey + Cheddar Roll-up
Fresh Berries
Trail Mix 
Pita Bread
Grape Tomatoes
Sliced Oranges
Cheese Quesadilla
Tortilla Chips
Deli Meat + Cheese Kabobs
Red Pepper Slices
Fruit Leather or Snacks
Hard Boiled Eggs
Baby Carrots + Ranch
Peaches or Applesauce
Pasta Salad
Granola Bar
Almond Butter + Jelly (or PB +J)
String Cheese
Fruit Cup
Cheddar Cheese Cubes
Bagel + Cream Cheese
Yogurt Tube
Baby Carrots
Fruit Snacks
Veggie Wraps with Hummus
Edamame or Snap Peas
Granola Bar

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How to Avoid Uninvited Guests at Your Summer Outing

In the summertime, as the weather begins to heat up, our microscopic friends, called bacteria, begin to make uninvited appearances at our cookouts, picnics and even camping trips. Sometimes these little friends can be helpful, but other times, they just make you sick.

Bacteria will grow anywhere they have access to nutrients and water. Microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens. When certain pathogens enter the food supply, they can cause foodborne illness.

Under the right temperatures, between 40 and 134°F, bacteria reproduce rapidly. In some cases, they can double their numbers within 20 minutes. The warm temperature, along with the moisture needed for bacteria to flourish, makes the summer weather the perfect atmosphere for bacteria.

That perfect weather, combined with an increase in outdoor activities, and food being prepared in outdoor areas that may lack the safety controls of a home kitchen, could be a recipe for disaster – leading family and friends to get sick.

So play it safe and follow the following food safety recommendations:

  • Never leave food out of refrigeration for more than two hours at room temperature. If the temperature is above 90°F, food should not be left out more than one hour.
  • Keep hot food hot - at or above 135°F. Place cooked food in chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays or slow cookers.
  • Keep cold food cold - at or below 40°F. Refrigerate or place food in containers on ice.
  • If you’ve prepared large amounts of food, divide it into shallow containers. For example, a big pot of baked beans will take a long time to cool, inviting bacteria to multiply, and increasing the risk of foodborne illness. Instead, divide the food into smaller containers and place in the refrigerator or freezer promptly so it will cool quickly.

If you have a question contact us at 719-583-4307. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Newest Restaurant to meet Exceptional Food Safety Practices in Pueblo

Newest Restaurant to meet Exceptional Food Safety Practices in Pueblo

Pueblo, CO – The Food Safety Program at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment is proud to announce the continued growth of its Pueblo Partners in Food Safety program. The Pueblo Partners in Food Safety recognizes local restaurants with exceptional food safety practices, protocols, and health reports. The program launched in April 2015 with six facilities and has since grown to a total of 84. The newest Partner is Romero’s Catering.
“We are happy to welcome Romero’s Catering as the newest Partner to this elite program,” stated Sylvia Proud, public health director at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Proud added, “The Health Department congratulates all restaurants that are Partners due to their hard work and dedication to health standards.  All restaurants are encouraged to apply; assistance is available with resources for program enrollment, self-assessments and safe food handler training.” 

“The Pueblo Partners in Food Safety not only recognizes and promotes restaurants and food facilities but is also a tool to develop Active Managerial Control, a system to ensure steps for safe food handling are being followed,” explained Vicki Carlton, food safety program manager at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Carlton added, “Active Managerial Control empowers food handlers to take control of risks and ensure operations remain safe.” Participating facilities conduct a self-assessment of practices and apply to join the program. The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment reviews and approves applications, allowing Partners to receive an official decal for their place of business, a certificate of approval and public recognition on The Dish of Pueblo website.

Look for the Partners window decal at your favorite restaurant in Pueblo and a full list is located on the Partner's List tab above. 

Current List of Pueblo’s Partner in Food Safety
    Auntie Bev’s Restaurant
    Cactus Flower
    Chili’s Grill and Bar
    Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
    Doss Aviation Initial Flight Training
    Estela’s Millstop Café
    Eurest at Vestas Towers
    GG’s BBQ & Catering
    Gold Dust Saloon
·               Noodles & Company
    Olive Garden
    Orange Julius
    Pueblo City Schools
      (all 33 schools)
    Pueblo County School District 70 (all 20 schools)
    Pueblo Joe’s at Pueblo Community College
    Pueblo SRDA
     (all 11 feeding sites)
    Red Lobster
    Rocco’s Riverside Deli
    Romero’s Catering 
·              Schlep’s Sandwiches
    St. Mary Corwin Hospital (Cafeteria)
    Tuscan Bean

Friday, March 30, 2018

Eggs for Easter: Great Food But Handle Safely

Eggs have been used as food for about 6 million years. The ancient cultures of Sumer, Egypt and Greece were all familiar with eggs and egg dishes. In ancient Rome meals often began with an egg course. In fact, the Romans crushed the left-over shells to keep evil spirits from hiding in them. But eggs can contain another kind of evil spirit if they aren’t handled properly: Salmonella, an organism that causes food poisoning, also called foodborne illness. Salmonella, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and fever, can be found on both the outside and inside of eggs that look perfectly normal. In otherwise healthy people, the symptoms generally last a couple of days and taper off within a week. But some people such as pregnant women, young children, older adults and persons with weakened immune systems are at risk of severe illness from Salmonella. In these at-risk individuals, a Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
That’s why it’s important to handle fresh eggs properly and these tips explain how to do so.
Refrigerate Eggs Promptly: Keeping eggs adequately refrigerated prevents any Salmonella in the eggs from growing to higher numbers which makes them more likely to cause illness.
  • Buy eggs only from stores that keep them refrigerated.
  • At home, keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) until they are needed. Use a refrigerator thermometer to be sure.
  • Refrigerate unused eggs or leftovers that contain eggs promptly.
Keep Clean: The outside as well as the inside of eggs can be contaminated.
  • Wash hands and all food contact surface areas (e.g., counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards) with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
  • Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
Cook Eggs Thoroughly: Cooking reduces the number of bacteria present in an egg; however, a lightly cooked egg with a runny egg white or yolk still poses a greater risk than a thoroughly cooked egg. Lightly cooked egg whites and yolks have both caused outbreaks of Salmonella infections.
  • Eggs should be thoroughly cooked until both the yolk and white are firm.  Recipes containing eggs mixed with other foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160ºF (71ºC).
  • Eat eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature (between 40 to 140ºF) for more than 2 hours.
  • For recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs, consider using pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg products.
Separate: Never let raw eggs come into contact with any food that will be eaten raw.
Eating Out: Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked, unpasteurized eggs. When in a restaurant, ask if they use pasteurized eggs before ordering anything that might result in consumption of raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Food Safety for March Madness Parties

Hosting a March Madness party? For some sports fans, March Madness is basically an extended holiday. Celebration for NCAA Basketball fans means planning fun ideas, hosting parties, and placing bets.  But don’t let food illness ruin your festive gathering with friends and family. Follow simple food safety tips to keep your party free from dangerous bacteria.
Who doesn't love finger foods during the game?

Food Illness Causes

Food illness has many causes. Primarily because of leaving food out too long. But, food illness generally occurs when people eat food  that contains bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins. Most cases are caused by common bacteria such as staphylococcus or E. coli.

Four Food Safety Steps – Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill
One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning each year. By following four simple food safety steps, you can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home.


  • Begin your party food prep by washing hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash and sanitize dishware and utensils before using them to prepare, warm, cook or serve any foods.


  • Don’t cross-contaminate your food.
    • Keep all raw meat and poultry away from ready to eat foods while preparing and mixing items.
    • Use clean and different utensils for each dish, and avoid using your own personal utensil to serve yourself foods from the buffet.


Use a food thermometer to ensure that all meats, poultry and other cooked food items have been cooked to a safe internal temperature before serving. Any previously cooked foods being reheated must be reheated to a safe internal temperature of 165°F, or steaming hot before serving.
Making sure food items are properly heated and cooked will kill bacteria that may try to tackle your guests. Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart below for the “rest time” of meats—the period after cooking that some meats need to rest before serving to ensure that germs are killed.
Here are the recommended internal temperatures for some party favorites:
CategoryFoodTemperature (°F) Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat MixturesBeef, Pork, Veal, Lamb160None
Turkey, Chicken165None
Fresh Beef, Veal, LambSteaks, roasts, chops1453 minutes
PoultryChicken & Turkey, whole165None
Poultry breasts, roasts165None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings165None
Duck & Goose165None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)165None
Pork and HamFresh pork1453 minutes
Fresh ham (raw)1453 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat)140None
Eggs & Egg DishesEggsCook until yolks and
white are firm
Egg dishes160None
Leftovers & CasserolesLeftovers165None
SeafoodFin Fish145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabsCook until flesh is pearly and opaque.None
Clams, oysters, and musselsCook until shells open during cooking.None
ScallopsCook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.None

Watch the Time – Leftovers

The game is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your food or your health!  Track the time that food stays on the buffet. Sideline any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for 2 hours or more.


After foods have been sitting at room temperature for 2 hours, either place foods in the refrigerator, change the cold sources or throw out foods you know have been sitting since pre-game coverage.
  • Bacteria love temperatures between 41°F and 135°F, and will grow rapidly if they are in this temperature environment for more than 2 hours. Read more about the Danger Zone.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate.
  • Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for three to four days at most. Freeze them if you won’t be eating the leftovers sooner.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°F (74°C) before serving.

Buffets – Size, Time and Temperature

Buffets are a great way to serve food when gathering to watch “the big game.” To keep the food your are serving buffet style free from dangerous bacteria, remember three key things: size, time and temperature.
Size. Size refers to the size of the platters or portions you put on the buffet table. Don’t put all your food out at once. Instead, divide what you have prepared onto a number of small platters and dishes ahead of time, and replace them with fresh ones throughout the party. Don’t add new food to an existing serving dish. Bacteria from people’s hands can contaminate the food and the dish.
Time. Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. Two hours is the maximum. Perishables should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, one hour if the buffet is held in a place where the temperature is above 90°F. Throw out all perishable foods when they reach this time unless you’re keeping it hot or cold, which brings us to temperature.
Temperature. You need a food thermometer to make sure food is being held or served at the proper temperature. Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 135° F or warmer. Cold foods should be kept at 41° F or colder. Until guests arrive, keep cold dishes refrigerated and hot dishes in the oven set at 200° F to 250° F.