The season for packing up cold-cuts and egg salad for a picnic or barbecuing hamburgers in the backyard has arrived, and with it marks the season of increased cases of food induced illnesses, reports Traci Newell for The Journal.
Summertime raises the risk of food poisoning because bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli flourish in hot and humid weather. Most picnics do not provide the necessary controlled cooking or proper refrigeration. Food-borne bacteria are most commonly found in foods that are high in protein and moisture. These foods include milk products, eggs, poultry, meats, fish, shellfish, cream pies, custards and potato salad.
Temperature control is imperative in keeping a summer picnic safe. Try packing foods in a cooler with plenty of ice, keeping the temperature below 40 degrees. Keep perishable food and drinks in separate coolers so the food cooler has less exposure to outside heat. Whenever possible, keep the cooler in the shade or in the air-conditioned portion of the car.
Food-borne bacteria is a danger with grilled food, too. Cook ground meat and pork to 160 degrees. Cook poultry to 180 degrees. Beef, lamb, veal, roasts and steaks must be cooked to at least 145 degrees. Never trust the exterior color of the grilled meat. A food thermometer will give an accurate indication of when the meat has reached a proper temperature.
Finally, discard any food that has been sitting out for more than two hours — sooner when the mercury tops 90 degrees.