‘Tis the season for picnics, cookouts, and other outdoor parties! As the weather starts to warm up, and many of us start planning summer picnics and barbeques, it’s important to brush up on our food safety tips to ensure that everyone stays healthy.
Eating outdoors in warm weather can present a food safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important.
Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to keep your family from becoming ill.
1. Wash Your Hands
While it may seem basic, not everyone does this! Wash hands well, and often, with soap and water after using the bathroom and before cooking and eating. And always wash your hands between touching raw food and other food items or surfaces. Keep anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitizer near by, in case your find yourself outside with nowhere to wash your hands.
2. Avoid Cross Contamination
Don’t use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless it has been properly washed in hot, soapy water first. Keep utensils and surfaces clean. Thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables that you plan on eating.
3. Marinate Food in the Fridge, Not On the Counter
Also, never reuse marinade that was used on raw meat. If you want to use marinade for cooked food be sure to reserve a separate portion.
4. Food Temperature
To be certain that foods are all the way cooked, be sure to use a food thermometer. Internal temperatures should be at least 165°F for poultry, at least 160°F for burgers and egg products, and at least 140°F for steaks.
5. Refrigerate and Freeze Food Right Away
This may be hard to remember while a party is going on, but food should never be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than two hours. When the temperature is above 90°F, food should not stay out for longer than an hour. Not sure how long the food has been sitting out? When in doubt, throw it out.
6. Keep Hot Food Hot
Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F and should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container. If you are bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue to an outdoor party, eat it within two hours of purchase. In addition to bringing a grill and fuel for cooking to an outdoor location, remember to pack a food thermometer to check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When re-heating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165°F.
7. Keep Cold Food Cold
Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Foods like chicken salad and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.