Sunny summer days are perfect for outdoor picnics, barbecues and pool parties. However, warm weather also provides the right environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly, potentially causing foodborne illness. Keep the party happy with these five safe food-handling rules.
While enjoying these lazy, laid-back days and warm weather, it is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. Preventing most forms of food poisoning is easy when you follow these five simple food safety rules:
#1 — Hand Hygiene
Before and after handling food, always wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Sing “Happy Birthday” twice to get a sense of how long you should wash.
#2 — Marinade Mandates
Always cover and refrigerate meat, poultry and fish as it marinates. Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. Do not use the marinate sauce that was used for raw meat or poultry on cooked or other foods. Instead, reserve a portion of the unused marinade to use as a sauce.
#3 — Temperature Gauge
Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 ºF, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 ºF for medium rare or to 160 ºF for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 °F. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
#4 — Clean Plate for Cooked Foods
Do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food, unless it has been washed with hot water and soap first.
#5 — Cooler Control
- A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.
- Pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature.
- Keep coolers out of the direct sun.
- Place drinks in a separate cooler from foods. Beverage coolers are opened frequently leaving out some of the cold.
- In weather 90 degrees or above, foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going a cooler or in the refrigerator.
If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); TTY 1-800-256-7072.
- Gateway to Government Food Safety Information at www.foodsafety.gov.