Summer holidays give us a break from school and work but providing safe food for your family should never take a vacation. A combination of warmer temperatures and more foods prepared and served outdoors can lead to an increase in foodborne illness. Remembering four simple principles can help ensure you and your family do not fall victim to illness associated with the food you prepare; clean, separate, cook, and chill.
CLEAN-Preparing food on a clean surface is essential to food safety. Thoroughly washing those nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables before chopping is very important. Just because you don’t eat the skin of a melon it still needs to be washed. Cutting through the outside brings all the bacteria from everything the melon came in contact with-even the hands of the person at the market who picks up every melon to get the perfect specimen. For more information check out the “Washing Produce Factsheet”.
SEPARATE-The slow pace of summer may make it easy for us to forget or become lax in keeping raw and ready to eat foods separate. Cross contamination can occur if you pack raw burgers in the same cooler as the lettuce and tomato without sealing foods in separate containers.
COOK-This is an area where guessing can be dangerous. Using a calibrated meat thermometer is the only way to accurately measure the temperature of cooked meats-even if they are being cooked on a very hot grill. If foods are not cooked to the recommended temperature, naturally occurring pathogens can thrive and make you or your family sick. For more information on cooking temperatures read about Thermometer Placement & Temperatures on the USDA’s website.
CHILL-With temperatures soaring into the 90’s it doesn’t take long for food to get into the temperature danger zone. 40°-140°F is the temperature that pathogens love. They multiply to unsafe levels if food is left in that range for 2 hours or more. Keeping all meats, dairy products, eggs and cut fruits and vegetables below 40° should be the goal. Of course a cooler full of ice, frozen water bottles or juice boxes will keep those perishable foods safe. When serving cold items set the bowl of cold food in a bowl of ice to keep it chilled.
Using these guidelines will ensure a safe food summer with many fun healthy gatherings.
For more information on food safety topics, visit the Family and Consumer Sciences portion of our website.