At the same time temperatures rise, people are more likely to leave food unrefrigerated for longer time periods. Food sits out at picnics, barbecues and during travel, and the number of food borne illnesses increases during the summer.
Bacteria love the hot, humid days of summer and grow faster than at any other time of the year. When the temperature is above 90 degrees, the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour.
Beat bacteria this summer with these tips for safe food from The Pilot:
- Keep perishable foods cool by transporting them to the picnic site in an insulated cooler kept cold with ice or frozen gel packs. Perishable foods include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, pasta, rice, cooked vegetables, and fresh-peeled and/or cut fruits and vegetables. Also, pack the cooler immediately before leaving home with foods that have been kept chilled in the refrigerator. Avoid frequently opening the cooler containing perishable food. If you can, pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in another.
- Wash surface of fruit. Though only the inside of the melons are eaten, the outside rind needs to be washed as bacteria are present in the soil which can contaminate the skin of the melon and then be transferred when the melon is cut into.
- When making homemade ice cream, use an egg-based ice cream recipe that uses cooked, stirred custard instead.
- Bacteria normally are found on the external surface of larger cuts of meat like beefsteaks. Steaks are safe cooked to 145 degrees (versus 160 degrees for ground-up meat such as hamburgers) since the outside will reach a temperature high enough to kill these surface bacteria. However, if a steak is poked with a knife or fork, these bacteria can be pushed into the steak and then the steak must be cooked to 160 degrees, the same as hamburgers. Use a long handle tong to handle meat on the grill. Use a separate set of tongs for removing cooked meat, poultry and seafood from the grill.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Place cooked meat, poultry and seafood on a clean plate, rather than the plate on which it was carried to the grill.
- When possible, wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food.
- When eating away from home, pack disposable towels or hand sanitizer if no hand washing facilities are available.