Warmer weather puts food safety front and center
May 30, 2022
With the arrival of Memorial Day, you may be thinking about picnics, parties and other gatherings over the upcoming summer months. That’s great, have a good time, but don’t drop your guard when it comes to food safety, especially when preparing and eating meals outdoors.
Clinical dietitians at UHS remind everyone that, during the summer, the rate of food-borne illness increases due to high temperatures and the increased amount of outdoor dining.
Follow some simple basics to keep bacteria from inviting itself to the party. Prepare your food the same day as the event to reduce bacteria growth. Thaw and marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Remember that marinade is a single-use product – discard it when you remove the raw meat for cooking. Don’t place cooked meat back on the same plate as raw meat, which may contain salmonella or e. coli: Take a clean plate out to the grill for the finished product. Be sure meat is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. (add an inexpensive meat thermometer to your shopping list if you don’t have one). Wash fruit and veggies before cutting to avoid spreading bacteria on the rind or peel into the edible interior.
Once prep is complete, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and toss anything that’s been sitting out for more than two hours (or at the one-hour mark if it’s over 90 degrees F). Set bowls or containers of especially vulnerable dairy- or mayonnaise-based dishes, such as rice pudding or macaroni salad, into a bowl of ice on your serving table to keep them at peak freshness. Err on the side of caution: If you’re unsure how long a hot or cold dish has been sitting out, throw it out.
For cleaning the grill after cooking, choose a grill brush without metal bristles, which can break off onto the grill racks and lodge in foods.
If your event isn’t in the backyard, just steps from your fridge and sink, prewash fruits and vegetables so they’re ready for use as soon as you arrive at the picnic.
Transport raw meats in their own cooler or package them well to ensure juices don’t leak onto other foods. Coolers should be kept at 40 F. or below to ensure the stability of the food inside, and beverages should have a separate cooler so repeated opening for drinks doesn’t impact food storage temperatures.
Wash hands before beginning food prep and after touching raw meat–take a jug of water with you if you’re unsure about handwashing facilities at your venue. (Hand sanitizer will work in a pinch.) And lastly, unpack the cooler as soon as you get home to ensure your leftover goodies don’t spoil but instead remain edible.
UHS’ dietitians say it takes only a few extra minutes to practice good food safety, and that can result in real peace of mind. You and your family can enjoy summertime dining in the great outdoors while staying healthy doing so. If you have questions about nutrition and food safety, learn more about UHS Nutrition Services by clicking here.