A trip to the hospital is a sure way to ruin a great day of outside fun. Summer brings warm weather, more daylight, hours spent outside, dips in the pool and backyard barbecues. Unfortunately, food poisoning all too often accompanies the outdoor activities due to improper handling of the food. Fortunately, the USDA has provided information on summer food safety tips to keep you from the hospital.
It’s important to keep things clean. Salmonella and other nasty bacteria enjoy the warm summer weather also. The heat provides the perfect environment to allow bacteria and other pathogens to multiply rapidly. The first step in food safety is to start with clean hands and surfaces. Wash your hands frequently while cooking, then make sure your counter tops, cutting boards and sink are all clean and disinfected. Continue to clean services throughout the food preparation process.
To prevent cross-contamination, keep meat and any tools meat touches away from other foods. Use separate cutting boards, knives and utensils for handling meat.
Marinade can be full of bacteria. Never leave meat out on the counter to defrost or while marinating. Thaw and marinate in the refrigerator. Put some of the fresh marinade aside before pouring it on the meat to use while grilling. Never use the marinade the raw meat has been soaking in for cooking.
Important summer food safety tips to keep you from the hospital include basic rules for grilling. A meat thermometer is crucial to ensure food is cooked enough to kill bacteria. Hamburgers, hot dogs and poultry need to be at least 160 degrees. Fish and all other cuts of meat should be at least 145 degrees. Preheat the grill twenty to thirty minutes before cooking your food. Reduce grilling time by partially cooking food by boiling or microwaving first.
Don’t inadvertently put cooked meat back on the same plate that held raw food. Follow the same rules for clean surfaces, hand washing and avoiding cross-contamination when cooking outside as when cooking inside.
Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold is a must to prevent bacteria from forming. When grilling at home, place cooked food back in the oven at 200 degrees to keep it warm until serving. If grilling away from home, keep food on the side of the grill away from heat to keep it warm.
Use coolers to store cold foods while outside. Keep the cooler in the shade. The cooler should be filled to capacity as full coolers are most effective. Use ice or ice packs to fill it. A separate cooler should be used for drinks as the frequent opening to get beverages lowers the temperature to unsafe levels for keeping food cold.
Foods should never be out of the fridge for over an hour, regardless of their proper temperature, so pack up all leftovers promptly.
It’s a myth that mayo based foods such as potato salad and cole slaw are more dangerous to consume tat summer gatherings than salads with an oil based dressing. Bacteria will grow and thrive on any food that gets too warm. Keep any perishable foods at the correct temperature to avoid this, no matter what dressing is used.
Following these guidelines will keep you and your loved ones from getting food poisoning this summer. One of the most important summer food safety tips to keep you from the hospital is when in doubt, throw it out. Never take chances when it comes to food safety.
by Rachael Moshman