Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, increases in the summer months when the weather is warmer, because people have more picnics, barbecues and camping trips where there isn’t adequate refrigeration. Additionally, warmer weather and humidity enable bacteria to grow faster. Following a few simple rules should help you protect your family…
- Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Be sure to keep cutting surfaces and utencils clean too. When eating away from home, find a source of clean water or bring water for preparation and cleaning. Pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
- Separate: Don’t Cross-Contaminate. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving foodis a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler, wrap raw meats securely and store separately to avoid raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. When using the grill be sure to keep meats chilled until they go on the grill and wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.
- Cook: Cook to Proper Temperatures. Food is properly cooked when heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a meat thermometer to be sure that meat and poultry cooked on a grill is cooked thoroughly as it often browns very fast on the outside. Cook hamburger and other ground meats (veal, lamb, and pork) to an internal temperature of 160 °F, and ground poultry to 165 °F. Cook steaks and roasts that have been tenderized, boned, rolled, etc., to an internal temperature of 160 °F for medium and 170 °F for well-done. Whole steaks and roasts may be cooked to 145 °F for medium rare. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180 °F in the thigh; breast meat to 170 °F. Cook meat and poultry completely at the picnic site. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
- Chill: Refrigerate Promptly. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Keep cold food cold! Cold refrigerated perishable food like lunch meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Consider packing canned beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler because the beverage cooler will probably be opened frequently. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible. Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as soon as it starts melting. If a cooler chest is not an option, consider taking fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, dried cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers, and a bottle of refreshing beverage. If you don’t plan to eat take-out food within 2 hours of purchase, plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing for your outing.
Food left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. At 90 °F or above, food should not be left out over 1 hour. Play it safe; put leftover perishables back on ice once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat. If you have any doubts, throw it out.