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Food Safety Issues/food saftey and thawing etc.

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My first of a few related questions is this:
1. my mother in law said she had her chicken sitting in the "sink" since 11 am (and it was now 9 pm) and she had to go home and cook it. Is that safe? Even if it WAS in water (which I don't know if it was) wouldn't it have to have been switched over several times?  

2. My MIL routinely handles her chicken (and the gizzards) with her bare hands and then does not wash them after - for example she'll then open a cupboard and rummage around for something with blood on her hands, or sit down at the kitchen table to have a conversation to sip some coffee. This is really dangerous and foolish, correct?  

3.Some time ago we spoke to them about my not being comfortable having dinner at their house with our kids and asked if we could bring our own food.  She's now offered to cook a turnkey and bring it to my house for Thanksgiving  - I'm concerned about her methods with the chicken and I'm more concerned about what she may do while trying to thaw and cook a turkey (for example would they wash their hands between changing the turkey water while thawing -or not bother changing it at all?   Would they skip thawing it in a fridge and just leave it on the counter or in the sink?  Simply put the methods I've seen them use so far make me wonder just how UN-safe they might be.  Would you agree that I am a valid concern for not being OK taking the risk of people who are known for not washing their hands after handling chicken and known for leaving a bird in a sink for that long unattended cooking my turnkey for me?

and lastly
#4:  There is talk of using a "free-range bird" that the farmer slaughter and gets ready the night before thanksgiving.  I personally am against it as I have a few sub-questions such as
-who is responsible for checking a farmer's work habits/cleanliness and routine and making sure he's following safety standards?
-and how often is that stuff checked?
-how often is a product like that taken and tested/checked?
-what are the standards of safety and who sets them?
-can any Joe-shmoe start a business like this and somehow get past inspection by not registering or whatever they have to do?  how could I find out if said free-range place is safe?

I am concerned as I have known many stories of people who got stuff at farmer's markets etc. who got sick and in several of the cases I'm aware of (one involving my grandparents) it turned out the farmer who was making their cheese they bought actually used the buckets he also had used for raw-meat and there was cross contamination in that case that they found after someone went in and checked his operation out.  When I think of local farmers doing their own butchering etc. I sort of view it as luck of the draw that the one you buy from isn't some hick with backwards practices and old-school thinking doing the slaughtering and food handling.  Am I wrong? Because I certainly have heard stories about similar happenings and I wonder how stuff like that can happen if proper inspecting was being done?

(I know people say the same thing about food processing plants but having worked in one for years I know first hand how anal they are about food safety - nothing is 100% EVER but sure as day there is no way a professional plants under gov't inspection 24/7 ends up doing something like repeatedly using a raw meat bucket for cheese.  If it happened at all it would be some majorly crossed wires - not some guy who actually knew what he was doing and thought it was OK.  I feel safe using the big name meat companies (we're in canada btw) because I have seen the standards - even the floors were tested hourly for bacteria growth!  Are farms you buy meat from anywhere near this good and if not what levels do they operate at and who, besides the farmer himself, comes to inspect their practices and meat and how often?

Answer
Hi Te,

You've asked quite a few questions and I'll try to answer them as briefly as I can.

1. Thawing potentially hazardous foods like chicken at room temperature is not recommended today as harmful bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. While cooking would destroy and live bacteria, some bacteria produce a waste product that is not destroyed by heat. Thus cooking does not automatically make a temperature abused potentially hazardous food safe.  If thawed at room temperature it must be done under constant running water that is cooler than 70 degrees F.

2. Yes, not washing your hands after handling raw chicken is a risky venture today.

3. I had this same concern with my mother-in-law who thawed her turkey at room temperature.  We settled the problem by inviting them to our house where I fixed the turkey and they brought rolls and a fruit pie.

4. If a farmer is selling poultry off the farm in the US they are required to meet certain safety conditions and are subject to inspections.  You can not legally sell poultry, meats, eggs, etc in the US without being licensed and inspected. As far as Canada, I'm not certain if you have the same standards but chances are you do -- or even more stringent. Small, farmer-owned operations can be very safe but there are always those that a very questionable. Most operations are very clean whether they are small or large but they are all subject to the same standards of operation.

Hope this covers most of the questions you raised.  If I can be of further service, please let me know.

For information on Canada's Meat Inspections system, please see: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets/specific-


Carol  

Food Safety Issues

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Carol Schlitt

Expertise

I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.

Experience

I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc - www.safeandsavorysolution.com

Organizations
National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

Education/Credentials
BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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