Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Food Safety Corner: Tea

We love our tea, whether it's freshly brewed hot tea, or a cool refreshing iced tea on a hot summer day. But it turns out that storing brewed teas at room temperature can actually be a problem for food safety.

Like most plant derived foods, dry tea leaves can contain low levels of bacteria, yeast and mold. If you brew it at an improper temperature, or store it at room temperature for long periods of time, these low levels can grow to dangerous levels (Remember that bacteria double every 20 minutes in the Temperature Danger Zone). Also, pitchers and kettles that have not been properly cleaned and sanitized can help promote the growth of these microorganisms. Like many people, if you leave the kettle on the stove and just fill it up when you want a fresh cup of tea, you could be putting yourself at risk.

The water used to brew tea should be heated to 195° F (91° C) for automatic iced tea and coofee machines. Tea leaves should be in contact with the water for one minute.

If using the traditional steeping method, water should be 175° F (80° C). The tea leaves need five minutes of contact with the water if brewing traditionally.

And, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that old fashioned pitcher of sun tea you have on the back porch? That's a recipe for food-borne illness. You leave the tea sitting there for hours, right in the middle of the TDZ (40°F-135°F). If the tea leaves have bacteria in them, they will grow to unhealthy levels, which could especially be a problem for the elderly or people with compromised immune systems.


At 12:19 PM, September 21, 2005, Blogger Harlan said...

I'm sorry, I'm gonna take the risk if my mom serves me sun tea. And I'm gonna take the risk if she makes me caesar salad with raw eggs. Are there any actual documented cases of illness due to sun tea? Otherwise I think this is excessive.

I had a housemate, years ago, who was a PhD student in environmental toxicology. He would roast a bunch of chicken in the oven and then leave it on the stove overnight, exposed. When the rest of us expressed our shock that he would then eat it, he argued that all of the dangerous bacteria in the chicken was killed by the roasting, and that there were basically no airborne bacteria that would make you sick.

I'm also reminded of the recent confirmation of the five-second rule by some folks at the University of Illinois... Hm, I should write a blog entry about this...

At 11:46 PM, September 21, 2005, Blogger ReMARKable Palate said...

By all means, make your own food choices, understanding the facts. If you've been reading my posts the past several days, you know I'm all for people being able to choose for themselves. i just ran across this interesting information, and thought I'd share it with my dear readers.

The key word in all food safety discussions is "may". There "may" be harmful bacteria present, and they "may" make you sick. Food safety guidelines have been established to account for that, and to safeguard against the possibilities.

As for the 5 second rule...I'm a food professional who serves to people who are paying for it, and for that reason, there is no 5 second rule for me. You're free to eat off the floor at your own house if you pick it up under 5 seconds...just remind me to eat before I come over to your house! ;-)

At 9:43 AM, September 27, 2005, Blogger Harlan said...

Mark, in case you don't read Food Migration (a blog about an American attending cooking school in Paris), she had a recent article about sanitary standards there:


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