Food Safety for the Summer
Summer is fast approaching and with it comes barbeques, graduation parties, picnics, family reunions, and other fantastic events that take us outside to enjoy our hard-earned sunny days. One thing we can all do without through these lovely summer months is foodborne illness, or food poisoning.
We’ve all seen the culprits. Potato salad sitting out on the picnic table for hours. Fruit salad basking in the sun since morning. Barbequed goodies that have long since cooled (and perhaps been taste-tested by the family dog). To top it all off, those pesky flies that seem to find their way into the party without invitation.
Start Safe: Safe food preparation always comes first. Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent foodborne illness. Wash equipment, utensils, and surfaces before you begin. Rinse and/or scrub fresh produce immediately before preparation. Work in small batches where appropriate and always refrigerate cut fruits and vegetables.
Travel Safe: Use a cooler and ice packs to keep things cold if you’re transporting items. Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products. Planning to take some leftovers home? Keep the cooler and ice packs handy (and cold!) so you can safely transport food home at the end of the day.
Serve Safe: When items are left out in the temperature danger zone (40°F – 140°F) bacteria can multiply rapidly. If possible, position your picnic or buffet table in the shade. An ice water bath is a great way to keep food cool, and you can easily set one up by taking the serving dish and placing it in a larger dish containing ice. Cover the item to protect it from flies and other sources of cross-contamination, such as curious pets.
For summer salads and dips, prepare several smaller serving dishes as opposed to one large one. This way you can replace a serving dish with a fresh one as necessary, like when that one relative insists on double dipping because, “We’re all family here!”
If cold food isn’t being kept below 40°F, it shouldn’t be left out in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours. At that time, the food should be discarded. If it is 90°F or warmer outside, food should be discarded after one hour. This timeline applies for hot food as well. If hot food isn’t being kept at a temperature of at least 140°F, it should not remain in the temperature danger zone for more than one or two hours, depending on how warm it is outside.
Grill masters have to follow food safety advice as well. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of food before serving. Namely, cook chicken and poultry products to 165°F, ground beef to 160°F, and whole cuts of beef, pork or lamb to 145°F. Avoid cross contamination by cleaning and sanitizing plates and utensils that have come in contact with raw or under cooked items.
Following these simple steps will allow you to rest easy, knowing that you provided safe food to your friends and family. Unfortunately, I make no promises that you’ll ever be able to convince that one relative to stop double-dipping.
Guest Blog provided by UNH Cooperative Extension’s Education Center