Summer weather is ideal for eating outside, enjoying picnics and barbecues, and beach excursions. Unfortunately, cases of food-borne illnesses tend to spike in the summer. Harmful bacteria thrive in warm humid temperatures and hands and surfaces can easily become contaminated. Reduce the risk of food-borne illness this summer by practicing safe food practices and taking some extra precautions to avoid unwanted hitchhikers, like bacteria and germs.
When prepping food, keep the following tip in mind:
- Always wash hands before and after handing food, after using the restroom or touching pets. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds and dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel. If running water is not available, be sure to have hand sanitizer handy.
When taking food “to go” keep cold foods cold:
- Use coolers and fill the cooler to capacity. A full cooler will maintain cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. Be sure to pack plenty of freezer packs and/or ice to ensure a constant cold temperature.
- Meat and poultry may be packed while still frozen. Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw such as fruits.
- Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order. Pack your desserts first and appetizers last.
- Take foods in the smallest quantity needed. Pack only the amount of food that is needed. Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated.
- Pack drinks in a separate cooler from foods. Typically, the beverage cooler will be opened more frequently. Separating the beverages from the food will help the food maintain a cooler temperature.
- When traveling, try to transport the cooler in the air-conditioning of the car rather than in a hot trunk.
- Be sure to keep coolers out of the direct sun.
When preparing foods:
- Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Do not use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Instead, reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
- Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
- The CDC recommends that consumers cook ground beef to 160°F. (The FDA Food Code states that ground beef needs to reach a temperature of 155°F for 15 seconds. The recommendation differs due to the assumption that is easier satisfy the single requirement in a consumer setting).
- Beef roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145°F for medium rare or 160°F for medium.
- Poultry must reach a temperature of 165°F.
- Fish should reach a temperature of 145°F.
- When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food, unless it has been washed with soap and hot water. Be sure to have plenty of serving and cooking utensils.
- Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
- At the end of the day, discard all perishable foods if there is no longer sufficient ice in the cooler or if gel packs are no longer frozen.
Stay safe and remember: When in doubt, throw it out!