Summer is synonymous with backyard barbecues! Whether you are celebrating a holiday, having a picnic, camping, or just enjoying a little sunshine, the summer months lend themselves to people cooking and eating outdoors. While an increase in the number of people enjoying the outdoors is great… what isn’t so great is the fact that foodborne illnesses or “food poisoning” also peaks during the summer months. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are a number of reasons that illness spikes during the summer. Bacteria can multiply faster in warmer temperatures and preparing food outdoors can make proper food handling more difficult. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” At least, that’s how the saying goes. With that in mind here are some tips for preventing foodborne illness this summer.
Wash UpIt should go without saying but before you begin preparing or eating any of your summertime favorites be sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water. This goes for all your utensils and cooking surfaces as well!
Don’t Cross ContaminateIf you are hauling your cookout food to a camping spot or even just the backyard, it’s tempting to make as few trips as possible with the fewest number of containers. This where cross contamination can come into play. Never keep raw meat, poultry, or seafood near ready-to-eat foods and never pack them in the same containers. It’s also important to use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods.
Know Your NumbersAny grill master will tell you, everyone likes his or her meat prepared a certain way. Before giving in to the demands of a hungry crowd, know your numbers. Cooking food for a long enough amount of time, at a high enough temperature will help kill any harmful bacteria that could cause illness. Check meat with a food thermometer and follow these temperature guidelines:
- Poultry (whole, pieces & ground): 165 °F /74 °C
- Ground meats: 160 °F /71 °C
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts & chops): 145 °F /63 °
- Fish & Shellfish: 145 °F (62.8 °C)