Unfortunately, the warmer temperatures that make outdoor gathering difficult can lead to unintended consequences.
Food poisoning is more common during the summer months than at any other time of the year. According to the USDA, naturally occurring bacteria and microorganisms thrive faster in the warm, humid summer months. Under the right environment, harmful bacteria can rapidly multiply in food to great numbers. When this happens, someone who eats the food can get sick.
With the increase in outdoor activities, and more people cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and on camping trips, the safety controls that a kitchen—thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and laundry facilities—provide are usually not available. Here are four simple steps to safer summer food.
- Cleaning: Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are the leading cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before eating and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. When eating away from home, find out if there is a source of safe water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean, wet disposable towels or washcloths and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
sporadic: Do not interfere with pollution. Cross-contamination during food preparation, grilling, and serving is a major cause of foodborne illness. When packing a cooler for a picnic, wrap raw meat securely; Avoid contact of raw meat juices with ready-to-eat foods. Wash dishes, utensils, and cutting boards that once contained raw meat or poultry before using them again for cooked food.
cook: Cook to safe temperatures. Take a food thermometer with you. Meat and poultry cooked on the grill often brown very quickly on the outside, so make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly. Check it with a food thermometer to make sure it has reached the correct internal temperature.
Cold: Immediately refund. Keeping food at an unsafe temperature is a major cause of foodborne illness. Cold, perishable foods such as luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken, potato salads or pasta should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice bags or containers of frozen water. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the vehicle and place it in shade or shelter out of the sun whenever possible. Food left in the refrigerator for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. When the temperature is over 90 degrees, food should not be left outside for more than one hour.
For recipes, additional safety information, and ideas for summer fun, check out the Nebraska Extension website.