Keep Summertime Foods Safe
With the warmer temperatures of summer, it's important to be careful about food handling, cooking, and storage because bacteria thrive in warmer weather. When certain disease-causing bacteria or pathogens contaminate food, they can cause food-borne illness, often called "food poisoning." Each year in the USA there are an estimated 76 million food-borne illnesses. Children are at a greater risk for food-borne illness due to their immature immune systems.
Salmonella, a common food-borne bacteria, can be transmitted by eating under-cooked chicken or raw eggs found in ice cream and cookie dough (so, no more eating raw cookie dough, wait for the cookies to be cooked!).
There are precautions you can take to help prevent food-borne illness, because after all, what would summertime be like without a picnic or backyard barbecue?
- Thaw or marinate meat in the refrigerator (not on the kitchen counter-top or sink) to prevent bacteria from growing at room temperature.
- Avoid cross contamination. Do not use the same utensils for raw meat and cooked meat without thoroughly washing them first.
- Keep side dishes and condiments such as ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise in the refrigerator or ice chest until ready to serve.
- Use a food thermometer to check temperatures. Bacteria can grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees.
- Cook meat thoroughly.
- Use a meat thermometer.
- Again, avoid cross contamination. Don't place cooked meat on the same platter used for the raw meat without thoroughly washing it first.
- Serve grilled food right away or keep it hot (above 140 degrees). Don't let it sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Pack ice coolers with plenty of ice to ensure a temperature below 40 degrees. Bacteria multiply rapidly on food kept at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.
- Place leftover foods in the cooler or refrigerator immediately after everyone is served. Throw away any food left out for more than two hours.
For more tips on serving safe food click here click here.
Keep summertime picnics and barbecues safe and fun by following food safety practices.
Image credit: Home Food Safety
Submitted by Leslie Kay-Getzinger, MS, RD
Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services Company