Like cold and flu season, there seems to be a food-borne illness season – it’s said that food-borne illness is at its peak in the summer months. The warm temperatures of summer are the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, and the backyard cookout can be another environment that encourages food contamination. Here are some tips on keeping your food safe this summer.
1. Cooking on the grill
More than one case of food poisoning has come from meat that’s undercooked. In fact, some of the more severe illnesses can result from eating partially raw or rare red meat. Since summer is the season for grilling burgers, make sure you cook the burgers absolutely thoroughly, all the way through, with no pink showing.
Many people grill in the summer when they are not used to grilling or cooking at other times, setting the stage for cooking inaccuracies. Be sure there is no red juice from burgers pierced with a fork. Set burgers on a white platter and let them rest for at least 10 minutes before serving – if any reddish juice ends up on the platter during the rest period, put the burgers back on the grill.
2. Washing up
Summer is a time for picnics and cookouts, and many times there is no hand-washing facility available at the cooking site. Bring jugs of water and antibacterial soap to the site so that you have these crucial elements available for food preparation and surface clean-up. Any time you handle raw meat, wash thoroughly before handling other foods, especially foods that won’t be cooked such as vegetables, fruits, or bread. You should also wash hands before handling utensils and cutting surfaces.
When you transport foods like potato salad or burger meat, they need to be kept cold en route. Pack plenty of ice or frozen “ice” blocks/gel packs along with the food. One good idea is to freeze water in used, plastic water bottles and distribute those around the food in the cooler. On the way, keep the cooler in the car where it’s air conditioned rather than in the trunk.
4. Put food away
At home, it’s easy to forget foods on the counter. In the summer, it’s especially important to put food back into the refrigerator or freezer after using. At cookouts and picnics, have a cooler handy to put leftovers into right away. It’s said that food should not be at room temperature or exposed to warm outdoor weather for more than two hours.