The recent warm weather has us thinking about summer! When the time comes for those picnics and cook-outs, remember to follow some simple guidelines in order to keep your food safe and healthy.
Eating Outdoors: Handling Food Safely (adapted from the FDA FoodFacts)
Pack and Transport Food Safely:
- Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep stored at 40 degrees or below to prevent bacterial growth
- Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable items in another – the beverage cooler is likely to be opened more frequently, and this way the perishables will not be exposed as often to warm air.
- Keep coolers closed. Limiting the number of times the cooler lid is opened will keep foods colder
- Don’t cross-contaminate. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped to keep their juices from contaminating other foods.
- Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing in the cooler.
Safe Grilling Tips:
- Marinate safely. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce, set a portion aside before adding the raw meat.
- Cook immediately after partial cooking. If you partially cook food in order to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before food goes on the grill.
- Cook food thoroughly. Have your food thermometer ready and know the safe food temperatures (see below)
- Keep ready food hot. Keep food that is done hot by moving it to the side of the grill rack, away from the coals. This will keep it hot but prevent overcooking.
- Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Any plate or cooking utensil that has held or touched raw meat, poulty or seafood can spread bacterial to other cooked foods. Have a clean platter and utensils ready grill-side for serving the food.
Safely Serving Food:
Food that is left in the “Danger Zone” – between 40 and 140 degrees F – for more than two hours can become a food safety danger due to the potential growth of bacteria.
- Keep cold food cold. Cold perishable food items should be kept at or below 40 degrees F. One you’ve served it, don’t let it sit out. Foods like chicken salad in a container can be placed in a pan filled with ice – just be sure to drain water and replace ice frequently.
- Keep hot foods hot. Hot food items should be kept at or above 140 degrees F. Wrap hot foods in an insulated container until serving, and do not let sit out for more than two hours.
Foodborne illness is defined as disease carried or transmitted to people by food. Certain bacteria present in food can cause people to become ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States. The majority of cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two, but sometimes cases can be severe.
How food becomes unsafe:
- Purchasing food from unsafe sources
- Failing to cook food adequately
- Holding food at improper temperatures
- Using contaminated equipment
- Poor personal hygiene
The best way to avoid foodborne illness is to practice safe food handling. Be sure to always follow these four guidelines:
1. Clean: wash hands and cleaning surfaces
2. Separate: don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods.
3. Cook: cook foods to the proper temperatures Use a food thermometer to check temperatures.
4. Chill: refrigerate or freeze foods promptly
USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures:
Ground beef: 160
Egg dishes: 160
Whole poultry: 165
Food Safety Resources
www.fightbac.org This website of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) is a consumer food safety resource
www.foodsafety.gov This federal resource for food safety also includes updates on food recalls and alerts
The Food Keeper: A Consumer Guide to Food Quality & Safe Handling.
This pamphlet contains information on the best way to store foods to maintain optimum quality and freshness. Available for purchase at Niagara County Cooperative Extension, $2.00.
Our Nutrition Education programs include guidelines on safely preparing and handling foods. For more information and to find out if you are eligible for the program, contact us at 433-8839.