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UMaine Today Magazine


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They're sinister, perhaps even deadly. And they can lurk in the most unexpected places: church halls, Grange kitchens and picnic baskets.

Food-borne contaminants such as salmonella, E. coli and staphylococcus pose a serious public health risk. That's why University of Maine Cooperative Extension educators are doing their part to reduce that risk through the popular Cooking for a Crowd classes.

"We attract church people, agencies, civic organizations and other groups who cook for many people as a fundraiser," says Extension educator Louise Kirkland. "In Maine, it's a really common activity, and we approach this like a prevention program so no one will get sick if people learn the (proper food handling) practices."

In the Extension classes held throughout the state several times a year, Kirkland and Extension Educator Kathy Savoie cover topics ranging from menu planning and record keeping to hand washing and storing leftovers.

Among Kirkland's lessons: Serve hot food hot and keep cold food cold. Always follow the two-hour rule: Food should sit at room temperature for no longer than two hours, or one hour in the summer months. Use an instant-read thermometer while cooking and periodically while serving. Wash hands often, using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. And tell anyone with a cold or cough to stay out of the kitchen.

"Whether you're serving the food or cooking, you need to be a clean worker," Kirkland says.

That advice doesn't just apply to churches and soup kitchens, either. Recent classes have included students from small fast-food businesses in Maine.

Students who have taken the Cooking for a Crowd classes have written to tell Kirkland how they have improved their cleaning, dishwashing and cooking practices as a result. She finds it encouraging that a growing number of professional and volunteer cooks consider food safety a priority.

 

UMaine Today Magazine
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