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11:49 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Test your food safety smarts

"The weather is perfect! Let's eat outside."

Dining outdoors - whether on a restaurant's patio, at a park or in your own backyard - is a simple pleasure you may enjoy in warmer weather. Before you head outside, you should brush up on some simple rules to keep foodborne illnesses from spoiling your good time. Take this quiz, and then share it with friends and family to help ensure you're prepared for a safe outdoor dining season.

Questions (true or false):

1. After washing produce, it's OK to store it in its original container.

2. It's wise to pack beverages in a separate cooler away from perishable foods.

3. When grilling, you should use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat.

4. Grilling hamburgers? The internal temperature must reach 125 degrees.

5. On a warm day (90 degrees or more), food can sit out for one hour.

6. A refrigerator set at 45 degrees F is low enough to keep harmful bacteria from growing.

Answers:

1. False. It's best to wash produce under running water, dry it with a clean cloth and store it in a fresh container. Bacteria that may be on the original container would just re-contaminate the washed produce if placed back in the original container.

2. True. Picnickers are always opening and reopening the cooler for beverages, which exposes the contents inside to warmer outdoor temperatures. Food that is packed in a separate cooler than beverages will stay colder and safer longer.

3. True. Never use the same plate for raw meat and cooked meat. The same rule applies for cutting boards - never cut raw meat and other foods on the same cutting board. The juices from raw meat can easily spread bacteria to ready-to-eat foods. Wash any plates, cutting boards and utensils that touch raw meat with warm, soapy water right after you are done using them. And be sure to wash your hands.

4. False. The internal temperature should be 155 degrees for ground beef. The temperature for chicken should reach 165 degrees. Steak and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats are cooked appropriately.

5. True. Food should be safe for up to an hour on a hot day. If below 90 degrees, food may be safe for up to two hours. Perishable picnic foods that have been sitting out will likely need to be discarded. Restaurant leftovers should be refrigerated promptly. If they have been sitting out for more than two hours, discard them.

6. False. It should be set at 40 degrees or below. Bacteria begin to grow more rapidly when the temperature is above 41 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature of your refrigerator to help ensure your food is safe year-round.

To learn more about food safety, visit the American Dietetic Association at www.homefoodsafety.org.