With warm weather upon us, most families are ready to get outside and enjoy the outdoors with friends and relatives alike. But cooking food outside, with temperatures rising in the hot summer months, may also increase the risk for higher amounts of bacteria within those foods.
Most people are unaware that foodborne bacteria increase during the summer months. This is largely due to food being stored at incorrect temperatures and prepared in improper methods.
In order to help keep people safe with food from the refrigerator to the picnic table, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided a list of tips to help create a safe environment:
- Keep cold food cold with ice or frozen gel packs, storing them at 40° F or below to prevent bacterial growth.
- Keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry frozen if already frozen so that they can stay cold longer.
- Keep all coolers closed and limit the amount they are opened.
- Organize your cooler contents by packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another.
- Be sure to keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry securely wrapped and separated while packing so that they do not cross-contaminate one another.
Also while picnicking it is always smart to take how you are grilling into careful consideration. The following are a number of FDA-provided tips to help ensure that the food you are serving your friends and family is safe to consume:
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator, never outdoors or on the kitchen counter. When you are done, never reuse a marinade.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that the food has been cooked thoroughly before serving.
- Never reuse platters or utensils that previously held raw meat, seafood, or poultry.
Remember that storing, preparing, and serving food at proper temperatures is what prevents the growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. The “Danger Zone” temperature range is between 40° F and 140° F for more than 2 hours, or even 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are warmer than 90° F.
If you wish for more information on food safety during the summer months, visit the FDA’s website at www.FDA.gov.