Summer time is full of outdoor barbecues, picnics and traveling with food in coolers. Unfortunately, it is also a time when Americans are more vulnerable to food poisoning.
While it can happen at any time of year, it’s a fact that food poisoning occurrences increase during the hot summer months, as heat and humidity help bacteria flourish. Food safety is important year round, and below are some helpful tips to keep you and your family and friends protected, especially during the summer.
- Wash your hands frequently. It’s a simple step but it cannot be stressed enough. Use hot soapy water before and after handling food, and of course, after using the rest room. When packing for a picnic or other outdoor activity, bring hand sanitizer and disposable wipes.
- Separate raw and cooked foods. Wash cutting boards and plates that held raw meat thoroughly in hot water before using them again. If you are transporting raw meat to a cook-out site, wrap the meat securely before placing it in the cooler so that juices do not come in contact with already prepared food. Or consider using two separate coolers: one for raw meat and seafood, and one for ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook thoroughly and use a meat thermometer as needed. Hamburger should be cooked to at least 160 degrees, whereas turkey and chicken should be cooked to 180 degrees. After using tongs to put raw meat on the grill, wash tongs thoroughly before turning or removing cooked meat.
- Defrost food properly. According to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), food should never be thawed at room temperature. Instead, defrost food in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or in cold water. After thawing in the microwave or cold water, food should be cooked right away.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Many hands come in contact with produce before you purchase it. Soak produce in clean, cool water for a few minutes. Then use a brush to scrub food and, finally, rinse it in a colander under running water.
- Keep sun-exposure to a minimum. If you are picnicking in the sun, never leave perishable food out for more than two hours. In extremely warm temperatures of 90 degrees or higher, never leave it out for more than one hour.
So enjoy your activities, but follow these few simple steps. You’ll greatly reduce chances of being one of the many Americans affected by foodborne illnesses each year.