Make sure your plans for summer parties consider safe food handling practices to prevent your guests from becoming ill.
As you plan your summer picnics and barbecues, be sure to include food safety in your game plan. When preparing food outside at the barbecue grill or in a park, it can be easy to make a simple mistake that could make you and your guests sick.
Start things off on the right foot by storing your food properly. When purchasing meat at the grocery store, use a plastic bag to handle and select the meat by turning the bag inside-out over your hand, creating a makeshift glove. Carefully pick up the meat, turn the bag right-side out and tie it closed to contain juices and to protect the rest of your groceries from touching the outside of the meat package. Store raw meat in the bag and keep it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that in case anything does drip from the package, it won’t contaminate any other food. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the food is stored below 40°F.
Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before preparing food, even if the food will be cooked. You also need to wash your hands after handling raw meat, after touching unclean surfaces like the garbage can lid, and before you eat. Also, be sure to wash countertops and utensils before, during, and after food preparation to prevent cross-contamination which happens when we accidentally transfer contaminants, like bacteria, from one surface or type of food to another.
The only way to determine whether food is cooked properly is to use a calibrated food thermometer. There is no level of training or experience that can replace measuring food’s internal temperature with a thermometer. Color, texture, and aroma are inconsistent and inappropriate methods of determining doneness. To ensure safety, poultry and hot dogs need to be cooked to 165°F, ground meat to 160°F, and whole cuts of meat and seafood to 145°F. Contrary to popular belief, foods cooked to these temperatures are not dry and tasteless. They are both safe and flavorful!
If you are hosting a summer party, ask guests to bring pre-made food in a cooler with plenty of ice packs and to leave it in the cooler until just before everyone eats so that it stays cold for as long as possible. If you are bringing a serving utensil to serve your food, be sure to protect it during transport by storing it in a zip-top bag or some other food-safe container. If you anticipate having leftovers, bring your food in several smaller containers and only remove one portion from your cooler at a time. For added safety when serving cold foods outdoors in the summertime heat, place a small bowl of food into a larger bowl filled with ice.
If you have any leftovers, get them in the refrigerator within 2 hours, and within one hour if the temperature outside is greater than 90°F. Label the containers and consume or discard them within 3-4 days. Following these simple guidelines will help to ensure that you do not send any of your guests home with foodborne illness.