Q: I work at an assisted living community in the dietary department, and have been told that we are never to send food with bones to the Alzheimer’s wing. Is it dangerous to feed a memory impaired patient food with bones in it (fried chicken or pork chop)?
A: The reason for not recommending bone-in foods for memory-impaired patients is probably the risk of a physical contaminant (small piece or sliver of bone) getting in the food. This could be a choking hazard. Also, a bone-in food is also more difficult to eat for such persons (maneuvering around the bone) rather than a boneless food which may easier to cut and eat, less frustrating, and therefore more satisfying for the patient.
Q: Why is it safe to simply sear the outside of whole muscle cuts of meat, as opposed to cooking ground meats to higher temperatures?
A: Bacteria are usually concentrated on the outside surfaces of whole muscle cuts of meats such as steaks, roasts, chops. Cooking these foods to 145˚ F kills bacteria to safe levels. Because grinding meats essentially distributes bacteria throughout the product, it is necessary to cook these products to higher internal temperatures, 155˚ F for safe eating.
Q: If I wrap a food, like a leftover turkey sandwich, in air tight plastic wrap, can I keep that food out overnight on the counter?
A: It’s not the air that is the risk to foods being left out overnight, but warm air temperatures (between 41°F and 135° F) that can allow dangerous bacteria in these foods to grow. The protein (turkey) in your sandwich is potentially hazardous- your sandwich should be wrapped to protect it from outside bacteria, but also refrigerated to prevent excessive bacterial growth overnight.
Q: I always thought that after a food was reheated, it must be thrown out after service. Can TCS foods be prepared, cooled, reheated, and served repeatedly as long as they are held hot and cooled down properly?
A: Yes. FDA regulations do not prohibit reheating more than one time. It is sometimes industry that prevents this practice, more for quality reasons, (food dries out, taste or appearance may be compromised) but from a food safety point of view, it is safe as long as the cooling, reheating and storage is done properly according to FDA Food Code guidelines or regulations in your jurisdiction.