American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Offer Advice This Holiday Season on Safely Preparing and Reheating Foods in Microwave Ovens
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CHICAGO – Microwave ovens are found in 90 percent of American kitchens. Because so many households use microwaves daily to prepare foods, especially during the holiday season, the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods remind consumers how to ensure food safety when defrosting, cooking and reheating foods in the microwave.
"Regardless of whether you are cooking a food for the first time or reheating leftovers, be sure to use a food thermometer in several places to verify the internal temperature," says registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson Ruth Frechman. "Microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave 'cold spots,' where harmful bacteria can survive."
As with all cooking methods, the only way to ensure that food is cooked to the correct temperature, thereby eliminating any harmful bacteria that may be present, is to use a food thermometer. "The same safe minimum internal temperatures for cooking foods like turkey and stuffing in the oven apply for reheating these holiday favorites in the microwave, too," says Frechman.
When cooking prepared food in the microwave, follow the microwave cooking instructions on the package closely as these steps are all important to ensure food safety. "For example, most frozen meals, pizza and sandwiches should not be eaten, even a bite or two, until they are cooked thoroughly," said Joan Menke-Schaenzer, chief global quality officer, ConAgra Foods. "Microwave ovens are very convenient, but it's important to recognize that cooking times will vary depending on the wattage of your microwave."
The ADA/ConAgra Foods program Home Food Safety educates consumers about the serious health issue of foodborne illness in the home. Through information on www.homefoodsafety.org and a public awareness campaign, the program provides simple solutions so Americans can easily and safely handle food in every part of their kitchens, from the refrigerator to the microwave and from the oven to the countertop.
Microwave cooking instructions typically include:
- Stir step. Stirring food midway through the microwaving time promotes even cooking and helps to eliminate possible cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
- Stand or rest step. Allowing the food to "rest" or "stand" allows for the cooking time to be completed. During the "rest or stand" time, the temperature of the food item can rise several degrees.
- Recommended internal temperature. A common guide is to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To test the temperature of the meal, start by placing the tip of a food thermometer in the thickest part of the food. Be sure to take the temperature in several locations. Again, temperatures within the food may vary because microwaves may not heat evenly.
Frechman offers more advice to prevent foodborne illness when defrosting, cooking or reheating food in the microwave:
- Thaw food using the defrost button.
- Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat-stable at high temperatures.
- Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles and fish immediately if you defrost them in the microwave. Allowing defrosted food to stand can cause bacteria that may be present to start multiplying.
- Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.
- Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic and all plastic containers should be labeled for microwave use.
- Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, takeout containers and other one-time use containers should not be used in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
- Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
- Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.
A downloadable list of safe microwave tips and safe minimum internal temperatures for foods can be found at www.homefoodsafety.org.
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.
ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's leading food companies, with brands in 97 percent of America's households. Consumers find Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, PAM, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, Snack Pack and many other ConAgra Foods brands in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise and club stores. ConAgra Foods also has a strong business-to-business presence, supplying frozen potato and sweet potato products as well as other vegetable, spice and grain products to a variety of well-known restaurants, foodservice operators and commercial customers. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.