Can Your Galley Pass the Food Safety Test?
What comes to mind when you think of a clean galley? Shiny waxed floors? Gleaming stainless steel sinks? Spotless counters and neatly arranged cabinets? They can help, but a truly "clean" galley- that is, one that ensures safe food, relies on more than just looks. It depends on safe food practices.
On your boat, food safety concerns revolve around three main functions: food storage, food handling, and cooking. To see how well you're doing in each, take this quiz, and then read on to learn how you can make the meals and snacks from your galley the safest possible.
|Here is the quiz. See how your habits as the
"cook" are helping to keep your crew in good health. This subject is one
that is often overlooked during regular safety meetings, so share your findings
with the rest of your crew at the first opportunity.
Choose the answer that best describes the practices of your crew, whether or not you are the primary food handler.
1. The temperature
of the refrigerator on our boat is:
2. The last time
we had leftover cooked stew or other food with meat, chicken or fish, the food
3. The last time
the galley sink
drain, dish washer, and connecting pipes in my galley
were sanitized were:
4. If a cutting
board is used in our galley to cut raw meat, poultry or fish and it is going to
be used to chop another food, the board is:
5. The last time
we had hamburgers in our galley, I ate mine:
6. The last time
there was cookie dough in our galley, the dough was:
7. I clean
counters and other surfaces that come in contact with food with:
dishes are washed in our galley, they are:
9. The last
time I handled raw meat, poultry or fish, I cleaned my hands afterwards by:
poultry and fish products are defrosted in our galley by:
11. When I
buy fresh seafood, I:
realize people, including myself, should be especially careful about not eating
raw seafood, if they have:
1. Refrigerators should stay at 40 F (5 C) or less, so if you chose answer B, give yourself two points.
If you didn't, you're not alone. According to Robert Buchanan, Ph.D., senior science adviser and director of science in the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, many people overlook the importance of maintaining an appropriate refrigerator temperature. "According to surveys, in many households, the refrigerator temperature is above 50 degrees (10 C)," he said. Generally speaking, habits in the galley mirror habits in your home kitchen. His advice: Measure the temperature with a thermometer and, if needed, adjust the refrigerator's temperature control dial. A temperature of 40 F (5 C) or less is important because it slows the growth of most bacteria. The temperature won't kill the bacteria, but it will keep them from multiplying, and the fewer there are, the less likely you are to get sick. Freezing at zero F (minus 18 C) or less stops bacterial growth (although it won't kill bacteria already present).
2. Answer B is the best practice; give yourself two points if you picked it.
Hot foods should be refrigerated as soon as possible within two hours after cooking. But don't keep the food if it's been standing out for more than two hours. Don't taste test it, either. Even a small amount of contaminated food can cause illness. Date leftovers so they can be used within a safe time. Generally, they remain safe when refrigerated for three to five days. "If in doubt, throw it out", says FDA microbiologist Kelly Bunning, Ph.D., associate senior science adviser in CFSAN. "It's not worth a food borne illness for the small amount of food usually involved."
3. If answer A best describes your household's practice, give yourself two points. Give yourself one point if you chose B.
According to John Guzewich, CFSAN's director of emergency coordination and response, the sink drain, dishwasher, and connecting pipe are often overlooked, but they should be sanitized periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of chlorine bleach in 1 quart (about 1 liter) of water or a solution of commercial kitchen cleaning agent made according to product directions. Food particles get trapped in the drain and dishwasher and, along with the moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
4. If answer D best describes your household's practice, give yourself two points.
If you picked A, you're violating an important food safety rule: Never allow
raw meat, poultry and fish to come in contact with other foods. Answer B isn't
good, either. Improper washing, such as with a damp cloth, will not remove
bacteria. And washing only with soap and water may not do the job, either.
5. Give yourself two points if you picked answer B or C.
Ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). Using a digital or dial food thermometer is crucial, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, because research results indicate that some ground meat may prematurely brown before a safe internal temperature has been reached. On the other hand, research findings also show that some ground meat patties cooked to 160 F or above may remain pink inside for a number of reasons; thus the color of meat alone is not considered a reliable indicator of ground beef safety. If eating out, order your ground beef to be cooked well-done. Temperatures for other foods to reach to be safe include:
Seafood should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 F (63 C). Fish that's ground or flaked, such as a fish cake, should be cooked to at least 155 F (68 C), and stuffed fish to at least 165 F (74 C).
If you don't have a meat thermometer, there are other ways to determine whether seafood is done:
When using the microwave, rotate the dish several times to ensure even cooking. Follow recommended standing times. After the standing time is completed, check the seafood in several spots with a meat thermometer to be sure the product has reached the proper temperature.
6. If you answered A or B, you may be putting yourself at risk for infection with Salmonella Enteritidis, a bacterium that can be inside shell eggs. So answer D--eating the baked product--will earn you two points.
Cooking the egg or egg-containing food product to an internal temperature of at
least 160 F (71 C) kills the bacteria. Refrigerating will not kill the bacteria. Other foods containing raw eggs, such as homemade ice cream, cake batter,
mayonnaise, and eggnog, carry a Salmonella risk too. Their commercial
counterparts are usually made with pasteurized eggs; that is, eggs that have
been heated sufficiently to kill bacteria, and also may contain an acidifying
agent that kills the bacteria. But the best practice, even when using products
containing pasteurized eggs, is to eat the foods only as they are intended to be
eaten, so answer C, sampling the unbaked store-bought cookie dough, will not
earn you any points. Consider using pasteurized eggs for homemade recipes that do not include a
cooking step, such as eggnog or Caesar salad dressing. Pasteurized eggs are
usually sold in the grocer's refrigerated dairy case.
7. Answers C or D will earn you two points each; answer B, one point.
According to FDA's Guzewich, bleach and commercial kitchen cleaning agents are the best sanitizers--provided they're diluted according to product directions. They're the most effective at getting rid of bacteria. Hot water and soap does a good job, too, but may not kill all strains of bacteria. Water alone may get rid of visible dirt, but not bacteria. Also, be sure to keep dishcloths clean because, when wet, they can harbor bacteria and may promote their growth.
8. Answers A and C are worth two points each.
There are potential problems with B and D. When you let dishes sit in water for a long time, it "creates a soup," FDA's Buchanan says. "The food left on the dish contributes nutrients for bacteria, so the bacteria will multiply." If your boat is equipped with a dishwasher, use it frequently. When washing dishes by hand, it's best to wash them all within two hours. Also, it's best to air-dry them so you don't handle them while they're wet.
9. The only correct practice is answer C.
Give yourself two points if you picked it. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially raw meat, poultry and fish. If you have an infection or cut on your hands, wear rubber or plastic gloves. Wash gloved hands just as often as bare hands because the gloves can pick up bacteria. (However, when washing gloved hands, you don't need to take off your gloves and wash your bare hands, too.)
10. Give yourself two points if you picked B or C.
Food safety experts recommend thawing foods in the refrigerator or the microwave oven, or putting the package in a water-tight plastic bag submerged in cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. Gradual defrosting overnight in the refrigerator is best because it helps maintain quality. When micro-waving, follow package directions. Leave about 2 inches (about 5 centimeters) between the food and the inside surface of the microwave to allow heat to circulate. Smaller items will defrost more evenly than larger pieces of food. Foods defrosted in the microwave oven should be cooked immediately after thawing. Do not thaw meat, poultry and fish products on the counter or in the sink without cold water; bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature. Similarly, marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Discard the marinade after use because it contains raw juices, which may harbor bacteria. If you want to use the marinade as a dip or sauce, reserve a portion before adding raw food.
11. A and B are correct. Give yourself two points for either.
When buying fresh seafood, buy only from reputable dealers who keep their
products refrigerated or properly iced. Be wary, for example, of vendors selling
fish out of their creel (canvas bag) or out of the back of their truck. Once you buy the seafood, immediately put it on ice, in the refrigerator, or
in the freezer. Don't forget the fish you catch from the stern of your
boat either. Get the fish to a shady, relatively cool area and dress it
quickly so that it can be refrigerated as quickly as possible.
12. If you are under treatment for any of these diseases, as well as several others, you should avoid raw seafood. Give yourself two points for knowing one or more of the risky conditions.
People with certain diseases and conditions need to be especially careful
because their diseases or the medicines they take may put them at risk for
serious illness or death from contaminated seafood.
Older adults also may be at increased risk because they more often have these conditions. People with these diseases or conditions should never eat raw seafood--only seafood that has been thoroughly cooked.
Rating Your Galley's Food Practices
24 points: Feel confident about the safe food practices you follow on your boat.
12 to 23 points: Reexamine food safety practices on your boat. Some key rules are being violated. Share this information at your next safety meeting.
11 points or below: Take steps immediately to correct food handling, storage and cooking techniques used on your boat.
Other Food Contaminants
Lead leached from some types of ceramic dinnerware into foods and beverages is often consumers' biggest source of dietary lead, says John Jones, Ph.D., in the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (See "Lead Threat Lessens, But Mugs Pose Problem" in the April 1993 FDA Consumer and "An Unwanted Souvenir: Lead in Ceramic Ware" in the December 1989-January 1990 FDA Consumer.) Here are some tips to reduce your exposure:
Also, don't store beverages in lead crystal containers for extended periods.
High temperature use of some microwave food packaging material may cause packaging components, such as paper, adhesives and polymers, to migrate into food at excessive levels. For that reason, choose only microwave-safe cooking containers. Never use packaging cartons for cooking unless the package directs you to do so. (See "Keeping Up with the Microwave Revolution" in the March 1990 FDA Consumer.)
According to the FDA's Jones, there has been speculation linking aluminum to Alzheimer's disease. The link has never been proved, he said, but if consumers are concerned, they should avoid cooking acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, in aluminum pans. For other uses, well-maintained aluminum pans--as well as stainless steel, copper and iron pots and pans--present no apparent hazards.
Insects, Rodents and Dirt
Galley-Based Food Borne Illness
When several crew members come down with sudden, severe diarrhea and vomiting, intestinal flu is often considered the likely culprit. But food poisoning may be another consideration.
A true diagnosis is often never made because the ill people recover without having to see a doctor.
Health experts believe this is a common situation in food preparation areas across the country, and because a doctor is often not seen for this kind of illness, the incidence of food borne illness is not really known.
An estimated 76 million cases of food borne disease occur each year in the United States. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to food borne diseases each year. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, those who have an illness already that reduces their immune system function, and in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism.
Cases of home-based food borne illness may become a bigger problem, some food safety experts say, partly because today's busy family may not be as familiar with food safety issues as more home-focused families of past generations.
The increased use of convenience foods, which often are preserved with special chemicals and processes, also complicates today's home food safety practices, says Robert Buchanan, Ph.D., senior science advisor and director of science in the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. These foods, such as frozen dinners and prepared foods, which are specially preserved, give consumers a false idea that equivalent home-cooked foods are equally safe, he says.
To curb the problem, food safety experts recommend food safety education. Take these tips to your boat and discuss them with all who prepare and handle the food aboard your boat. Visit the web sites below for more information.
"It's mainly taking a common-sense approach towards food safety in the home (galley)," says Buchanan. "Basically, consumers need to make sure they're not defeating the system by contaminating the product."
FDA's Food Information Line
USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline
Also check with:
Adapted from Publication No. (FDA) 02-1229