Keep the Party Going, Be Summer Food Safe

Health Minute

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The countdown to summer is on, and as warm weather approaches, so does the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors, spending time with friends and family. 

Outside gatherings can quickly become a real downer, however, if the food isn’t properly cared for in the heat and during longer get-togethers.

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) estimates there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. every year. That means 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food. 

Eating food that has been out in the heat too long can lead to a variety of digestive issues, including diarrhea and vomiting, which is not what anyone wants to take away from a fun summer day.

The CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS), the U.S. Department of AgricultureOff Site Icon (USDA), and the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA) have a variety of tips to help you have fun at upcoming picnics and cookouts while still being food-safe this summer. Check out some of the tips below:

Prepping and packing food

  • Clean fruits and veggies first – Take time before you leave home to wash fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw.
  • Don’t cross contaminate – Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate and wrapped well so their juices don’t contaminate other food, such as raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Fill your cooler – A full cooler stays cold longer than a half full one. Try to use a cooler in a size you can fill, or fill the remaining space with ice
  • Find some shade – leaving a cooler in the shade will keep everything inside be colder for longer.
  • Keep cold food cold – Put cold food in a cooler packed with ice. Pack meat, poultry and seafood still frozen, when possible, to keep them colder longer.
  • Separate perishable items – Keep drinks in one cooler that can be opened and closed without concern of losing the cold. Keep perishable food in another cooler that can be opened as few times as necessary.

Grilling out

  • Cook thoroughly – Have a food thermometer ready to make sure you always cook food thoroughly. Follow these temperature guidelines:
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal – 145 degrees
    • Fish – at least 145 degrees
    • Ground meats – 160 degrees
    • Poultry – at least 165 degrees
  • Marinate safely – When marinating food, don’t leave it on the kitchen counter or sitting outside. Put it in the refrigerator instead. Also, once you’ve put raw proteins in a marinade, do not reuse any of the marinade as a sauce. If you want some marinade for a sauce, put some aside before adding anything to it.
  • Use new platters and utensils – Make sure not to reuse cutting boards, platters or utensils once they have been used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Reusing these items can spread bacteria. Instead, have a clean patter and serving items ready to go by the grill for when food is ready.

Serving cold or hot foods

  • Cold foods – Keep these foods at 40 degrees or below until serving. Do not let perishable food sit out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are higher than 90 degrees). Anything out longer than this should be thrown away.
  • Cold foods that are served in dishes can be placed on ice. Fill a deep pan with ice and place a small serving dish of the food on top of the ice. Put small portions out at a time and leave the rest in a cooler to refill. Replace the ice frequently as it starts to melt.
  • Hot food – Similar to cold food, it should not be left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are higher than 90 degrees). Anything left out longer should be thrown away.
  • Hot food should be kept at or above 140 degrees. It can be wrapped and put in an insulated container until served.

It’s also important to remember to wash your hands often, especially when you’re the cook, according to the CDC. If you won’t have access to a sink outside, use bottled water poured over a soapy hand, disinfecting hand wipes, or antibacterial hand wash.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy a fun time with your family and friends with less worry about spreading foodborne illnesses.

Find more information about summer food safety, talk with your doctor or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.