The summer is a great time for lots of picnics, barbecues, and fun outdoor activities with family and friends. However, these fun events present the chance for foodborne bacteria to thrive. It is an exciting time for everyone when the temperature rises in the summer months, but rising temperatures also cause bacteria to multiply rapidly.
In order to prevent harm and protect yourself and loved ones in the summer heat against foodborne illness, handling food safely and properly is critical. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has provided user-friendly guidelines for keeping everyone safe and healthy during the upcoming summer months.
Simple Strategies for Packing & Transporting Food
- Keep refrigerated food in a cooler. Cold food needs to stay cold or it will become hazardous to eat. You can keep food cold simply with ice in a cooler, or with frozen gel packages. To prevent bacterial growth, the temperature in the cooler needs to be 40°F or below. Keep meat, seafood, and poultry in the cooler while still frozen so they remain colder longer.
- Clean fruits and vegetables. Be sure to clean all produce before packing the cooler. Rinse fruits and veggies under tap water, even the ones with skins that are not consumed. Those that have firm skin should be washed with a vegetable brush. Be sure to dry produce with a clean towel.
- Neatly organize cooler(s). It may be best to pack more than one cooler. One cooler for drinks and one cooler for fresh foods. As people get very thirsty in the heat, they will open the cooler several times for a drink to stay dehydrated. With two coolers, the perishable foods will stay fresh and cold because the cooler will stay closed until ready to cook.
- Securely wrap each food. Keep raw seafood, meat, and poultry wrapped in separate containers. This will prevent juices from leaking on to other foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Keep coolers closed. Throughout the day, make sure everyone limits the amount of times the cooler is open, keeping the cooler fresh and cold.
Grilling is very common when people are picnicking outside. Just be sure to follow these guidelines to grill food safely and eat healthy.
Tips for Safe Grilling
Keeping Food At Appropriate Cold/Hot TemperaturesOne of the most important factors in preventing the growth of foodborne bacteria is to keep food at proper temperatures. Food is considered to be in the "Danger Zone" when it is between 40°F and 140°F, and cannot remain in the zone for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees). This zone is considered dangerous because it is when bacteria in food multiply rapidly, eventually leading to foodborne illness.
Cold food- Cold perishable foods, such as fruits, veggies, meat, poultry, and seafood, should be kept at a temperature of 40°F or below until serving time. Do not keep the food out for longer than 2 hours after it is served, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F outside.
Hot food- Hot food should be kept at a temperature at or above 140°F. Keep the food in an insulated container until serving. The same rule applies with hot food: do not let it sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if it is above 90°F outside.
All foods are cooked at different temperatures. Always be sure to cook each food properly.
- 145°F - Steaks and roasts, fish
- 160°F - Pork, ground beef, egg dishes
- 165°F - Chicken breasts, whole poultry
According to the FDA, following these easy steps will lead to a healthy and worry-free barbecue season.
Written by Sarah Glynn