Warm Weather Food Safety
As the weather begins to warm up, so does your chance for contracting a foodborne illness (food poisoning). That's because we tend to go outdoors, enjoying the warm weather and hostings things like picnics and barbeques. While these activities are enjoyable, they usually lack the means to ensure food safety (for example, refrigeration, temperature controlled cooking, storage and washing facilities). Bacteria that cause illness grow faster in the warm, humid summer months.
Tips for Healthy Outdoor Eating
- Chill: Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone: cold food should be stored at 40°F or less and hot food at 140°F or more to prevent bacteria growth. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a main cause of foodborne illness. Cold, 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. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible.
- Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are another main cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. When eating away from home, find out if there's a source of safe water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or 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 food causes foodborne illness. When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely; don't let raw meat juices touch ready-to-eat food. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.
- Cook: Cook to safe temperatures. Take a food thermometer with you. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so be sure that meats are cooked all the way through. Check them with a food thermometer to make sure they have reached the correct internal temperatures before serving.
When in doubt, throw it out! The last thing you want after enjoying the outdoors is a foodborne illness. If you question whether a food has been left out for too long, don’t hesitate to throw it out.