Most people have a good idea of some of the major cooking mistakes that can lead to food poisoning, but did you know that foodborne illness is more common in warmer weather?
According to the USDA, there are two reasons why there’s an uptick during the summer months.
Four steps to prevent foodborne illness
First, most foodborne bacteria will thrive at temperatures from 90 degrees to 110 degrees, and bacteria can flourish in humid weather as well.
Second, many people cook outside during the summer, and they don’t have access to a kitchen’s safety controls.
The USDA says you might not get sick from contaminated food because your immune system is able to protect you, but you still want to follow these steps to prevent an expensive trip to the doctor.
1. Wash hands and surfaces frequently
Since unwashed hands are a leading cause of foodborne illness, make sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food and after using the bathroom.
This video from the CDC reminds you to scrub under your fingernails and between your fingers:
If soap and water aren’t available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wipe visible dirt or grease off your hands before using hand sanitizer.
2. Don’t cross-contaminate
When packing a cooler, be sure to wrap meats securely to avoid raw meat juices from dripping onto other items. You may want to load these items into the cooler first to be on the safe side.
Also, wash plates, utensils and cutting boards that came into contact with raw meat or poultry before using them again.
3. Cook to proper temperatures
You can prevent foodborne illness by cooking food for a long enough time at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. So always bring a food thermometer to your picnic.
The following recommendations are from FoodSafety.gov:
Another tip from the USDA is to never partially cook food ahead of time (like before a picnic) because it allows bacteria to survive and multiply.
4. Refrigerate in a timely manner
Once you remove food from a refrigerator or a cooler, the clock starts ticking!
Food left out of the fridge for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. And when it’s above 90 degrees, don’t keep it out for more than an hour.
At a barbecue, your best bet is to put perishables back on ice right after you finish eating.