Summer food safetyWORTHINGTON — Summer would not be complete without picnics and barbeques, but be careful. Federal government studies have shown that cases of food-borne illness — also known as “food poisoning” — rise in the summer.
By: Holly Sandhurst, Hy-Vee dietetic intern, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Summer would not be complete without picnics and barbeques, but be careful. Federal government studies have shown that cases of food-borne illness — also known as “food poisoning” — rise in the summer.
There are two main reasons for this increase. First, bacteria grow faster in the warm summer months, especially when humidity is high. Second, the safety controls that a kitchen provides — thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities — are usually not available at summer get-togethers.
What is food-borne illness? Food-borne illness is caused by bacteria called pathogens and often presents itself as flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever. Infants and young children, pregnant women and older adults are at higher risk for foodborne illness. Some persons may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful bacteria and others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year an estimated 76 million persons experience foodborne illness in the United States. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented. Follow these five simple steps to help keep your food, family and friends safe this summer:
1. Prepare food correctly:
- Always wash your hands before handling food and use clean utensils and containers. Dirty hands, utensils, containers and any work surfaces can contaminate food with harmful bacteria and viruses. Pack moist sanitizing wipes if you think your picnic site might not have hand-washing facilities available.
2. Pack for safety:
- When transporting food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacteria growth. It is best to transport coolers in the passenger area of the car. To avoid opening and closing the cooler, pack beverages in a separate cooler from perishables. Keep meat and poultry in the cooler until ready to use, and remove it immediately before placing on the grill.
3. Cook properly:
- Thoroughly cook food all at one time. Never partially cook food, let it sit, then finish cooking it later. This provides conditions that allow harmful bacteria to grow.
4. Serve safely:
- Keep cold foods cold and hot food hot while serving the meal. Do not let cold or hot foods sit out for more than one hour. Any leftovers should be put back in the cooler right after they are served. The longer foods are held at unsafe temperatures the more likely that bacteria can grow and cause food-borne illness.
5. Handle leftovers appropriately:
- If the ice is melted in the cooler containing cold foods, throw out the food. Cold water cannot keep foods cold enough to be safe.
You can’t rely on how food looks, smells or tastes to decide if it is safe to eat. Foods can spoil or harbor dangerous bacteria long before noticeable signs appear. The number of cases of food-borne illness each year is staggering. Following these easy food safety tips can help protect you this summer!