Summertime is the season of backyard barbecues, picnics, and beach trips. Unfortunately, summertime also is the season when food poisoning is most likely to occur. Hot weather combined with outdoor cooking or eating is a prime recipe for food poisoning if you are not careful to follow good food safety practices.
How Common is Food Poisoning?
Up to 50 million Americans suffer food poisoning every year. Of those, about 130,000 end up in the hospital, and about 3,000 people die. Responsible food handling practices drastically reduce the chances of food poisoning.
Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning
Do Not Wash Raw Meat
Contrary to popular belief, washing raw meat and poultry actually increases the chance of foodborne illness. Cool running water does nothing to wash away robust bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella. It can, however, splash contaminated water all over your kitchen.
Washing meat can spread contamination all over the kitchen easily, especially during the hectic preparations for a festive meal. Instead, put raw meat directly on the cooking surface. The heat from cooking properly is the best defense against food poisoning.
The main concern about food poisoning from raw chicken is Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacteria that incubates anywhere from a few hours to a few days after exposure. A guest eating raw veggies or garnishes may get sick after your cook-out and never make the connection.
The symptoms of Salmonella include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Bloody stool
What You Should Wash Instead
Now you know that you should not rinse raw meat. What you do need to wash in order to prevent food poisoning, however, is everything that raw meat touches. A quick swipe on a kitchen towel after touching raw meat is an excellent way to spread foodborne illness. No matter how inconvenient it is, you must wash your hands with soap and hot water after touching raw meat.
Also, be sure to wash all surfaces and utensils the meat touched. After you have cooked your meat, don’t put it back on the plate you used before putting it to the grill.
Keep it Separate
When shopping for your cookout, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last before you check out. Separate these foods from the other items in your cart by using the plastic bags provided by the store. Put each package in an individual plastic bag to cut off all chances of cross contamination.
Cutting Board Tips
As you prepare the dishes for your picnic or get-together, use a separate cutting board for raw meat as well as a separate one for raw vegetables. Both raw meat and vegetables can pass foodborne pathogens to ready-to-eat foods.
Get to Know a Meat Thermometer
Using a meat thermometer is the only way to be sure meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Meat needs to be cooked to the proper temperature in order to kill foodborne pathogens and prevent food poisoning.
Before your cookout, calibrate the thermometer so you don’t have to fumble with it while you have guests. To calibrate, place the thermometer in ice water. When the thermometer reads 32°F, it is calibrated properly, and you’re ready to grill safely.
Using a thermometer is important because you cannot detect doneness visually. Visual inspection cannot tell you whether food is safe. Only a properly used thermometer can tell you whether meat is cooked to a safe temperature.
Know the Safe Temperatures
Keep a chart handy while you grill to help you determine if the meat is done. If you’re smoking meat instead, make sure the temperature in the smoker is between 222°F and 300°F for safety. The specific safe temperatures by cuts and types of meat are:
- 145°F – Whole cuts of beef and pork (stand-time of three minutes at this temperature)
- 145°F – Fish
- 160°F – Ground beef
- 165°F – All poultry and pre-cooked meats, such as hot dogs
Chill Foods Properly
Leaving perishable foods out too long in the heat or in sunlight can be a ticket to the emergency room. Don’t leave mayonnaise-based foods out until guests eat the last bite. Stick it back in the fridge after an hour if the temperature is higher than 90°F.
Refrigerate or freeze foods in small portions as soon as possible to prevent food poisoning. If you leave food out overnight, you can’t cook away the risk of foodborne illness anymore. It’s best to discard it.
Safely Handling Leftovers
After the party, you might have leftovers that can turn into quick and easy snacks for your family. Party leftovers are more likely to cause foodborne illness because of the higher risk of contamination from being touched by numerous people. Leftovers from a regular or restaurant meal tend to be safer.
Nevertheless, don’t let your party platters go to waste. Minimize your risk of getting sick by sticking to these leftovers safety tips:
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into small containers so the food cools more quickly in the refrigerator.
- Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
- Bring leftover sauces and gravies to a boil.
- Microwave leftovers with a microwave-safe lid to promote thorough reheating.
- Do not use any leftovers that look or taste strange.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Foods with a Low Risk of Causing Food Poisoning
Further prevent foodborne illness by stocking your soiree with low-risk foods that don’t require refrigeration. Some recommendations include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Bread and buns
- Most baked goods
- Jam and preserves
Keep in mind that fresh fruits and vegetables can spread Listeria. It’s best to wash these foods thoroughly prior to consumption.
Avoid Food Poisoning by Keeping Up With Food Safety Recalls
One of the best ways that you can prevent food poisoning and foodborne illness is by keeping up with current food recalls. You can keep track of current recalls through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can also count on Bad Food Recall to keep you informed. Our website is updated regularly to ensure that you are getting important information you need to keep your family safe.
If you have questions or concerns about the illnesses listed on our site, contact us to learn more. You can reach us by calling 1-877-534-5750, or reach out online.