During the month of October, we’ve come across several recall notices involving frozen vegetables. A few of these recalls occurred due to possible listeria contamination, and one brand in particular was recalled without the location of distributed product being fully disclosed. Since the FDA did not require this distributor from alerting the public to the risk of contamination of nearly 25,000 cases of frozen product, we’d like to discuss how ServSafe food safety managers can keep guests safe from potential illness.
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Food Safety and Frozen Vegetable Preparation
While listeria is more commonly associated with deli meats and unpasteurized dairy product, the recent rash of recalls shows that other foods carry the risk of contamination. The frozen product in question may have picked up this bacterium during processing or packing. Steps that help prevent listeria poisoning from spreading to your guests include:
- Fully cook frozen vegetables to 140 degrees
- Cook frozen vegetables without thawing
- Keep all cooked vegetables out of the danger zone when hot holding
- Serve cooked product quickly if not hot held
- Keep an eye on recall notices
When discussing cooking temperatures, proper procedure for vegetables tends to get overlooked. The proper cooking and holding temperatures for plant based ingredients is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Paying close attention to temperatures will reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
Cooking frozen vegetables directly from the freezer rather than thawing also reduces the risk of having bacteria multiply. Most frozen vegetables are blanched before packaged and frozen. While thawing, plant matter will become soft, giving bacteria ample breeding grounds. If you feel the need to thaw frozen vegetables, make sure that you thaw them in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. Most food-borne pathogens multiply rapidly at warmer temperatures.
As with any other cooked food product, vegetables should be served as soon as they are cooked. Letting any product that is not hot-held sit for lengthy periods of time increases health risks exponentially.