Make sure summer foods are safe to eatSubmitted by the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health / July 5, 2018
Summer is a great time for families and friends to gather and picnic out doors with great food. Food being prepared or transported in the summer heat makes food safety extremely important to prevent food borne illnesses. Here are a few tips to keep your food safe:
Start by making sure that you select your meat, poultry, eggs or other cold foods last during your shopping visit. To prevent cross-contamination (which can happen when meat or poultry juices drip on other foods), always place meats/poultry in plastic bags and store them in the grocery cart away from other foods if possible.
Plan to drive directly home after your shopping trip or take an ice-filled cooler or insulated bag with you. Refrigerate your perishable foods within two hours of purchase, or one hour if the outside temperature is above 90°F. Harmful bacteria can grow, multiply and make you ill very quickly in the heat. Freeze poultry or ground meats that won’t be used in one or two days and freeze other meat within four to five days.
If you marinate foods to tenderize or enhance the flavor, do this in the refrigerator, not on the counter top. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve some before putting the raw meat or poultry into it. If you must reuse the marinade, make sure you boil it first to destroy any of the harmful bacteria from the raw meat.
When transporting food to another location, keep it cold to minimize any bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with enough ice or ice packs to keep the food temperature at 40°F or below. Pack the food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.
Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will be cooked immediately. If using a cooler to keep the meat or poultry cold, keep the cooler out of direct sun and avoid opening it too often. Pack beverages in a separate cooler than the perishable food.
Keep everything clean. Hands, surfaces, plates, utensils or anything that touches food should be cleaned thoroughly and often. Bacteria can spread quickly on hands and unwashed utensils.
Cook all foods thoroughly. Cook to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Foods cooked on a grill often browns quickly but may not be completely cooked on the inside. Always use a food thermometer to make sure food is thoroughly cooked.
Refrigerate any leftovers promptly. Discard any food that has been left out for two hours or one hour if the outside temperature is over 90°F.
Food borne illnesses can ruin your cook-outs or summer picnics. Practice good food safety and enjoy your outdoor food this summer.
For more information, contact the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health at (336) 641-6667.