There are food safety tips that have no season: washing your hands before handling food, washing surfaces after handling meat on them, avoiding cross contamination and the like. These are practices we should engage in everytime we prepare a meal to avoid food poisoning.
But, there are some food safety tips that are specific to the season, particularly to the summertime when temps are on the rise. Ignoring these safety precautions could make you and your family very sick.
Doctors and emergency rooms see the most cases of food poisoning in the summer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to food poisoning. Because we eat outdoors more in the warm temperatures, the environment is right for our food to become host to hundreds of strains of bacteria that can cause a number of viruses and illnesses.
Consumer Reports Food Safety Research Manager, Sana Mujahid, Ph.D. says there are five steps we can take to ensure that our next gathering is more like a party and less like an infirmary:
1. Plan your trip to the supermarket
Make certain that when you are planning to do your shopping, your trip to buy groceries is the last on your list. This way, you will be heading home and it will give your food less time in the warm weather and prevent spoilage. When bagging your groceries, pack cold items together to keep them cooler longer. Keep eat and seafoods separate to avoid contamination and food poisoning. Do not pack these with fresh fruits and vegetables. Unless you drive an SUV or a hatchback, do not put your groceries in a trunk where the A/C/ can’t help to keep them cool. If you are going to make other stops on the trip home, bring a cooler filled with ice to store perishables.
2. Don’t leave prepared foods out
We worry that prepared foods, if left out, will attract vermin, but they can also attract bacteria. You don’t need to just worry about fresh fruit and vegetable salads or cooked and raw meats. Rice, pasta and potato salads can also be a haven for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Do not leave prepared foods out for more than two hours in temps under 90 degrees F (or one hour for temps over 90 degrees F). To keep them cooler and fresher for longer, set these dishes in bowls of ice.
3. Keep coolers organized
Before setting them into coolers, make sure raw meats and seafood are wrapped tightly so that fluids do not leak and contaminate other food items. Keep perishables in separate coolers from beverages. People will be in and out of beverage coolers and perishables will get too much exposure to the warm temps outside which could cause bacteria to grow.
4. Grill safely
To avoid food poisoning while grilling, keep utensils used for raw meat and seafood separate from those used for cooked meats and fish. Use separate utensils for vegetables and meats to avoid cross contamination. Always cook foods to the right temperatures. Use a food thermometer to ensure food are thoroughly cooked.
5. Use caution when shopping Farmer’s Market’s
Happy barbecues are healthy barbecues. Your idea of “healthy” may be shopping your Farmer’s Market because most of the foods there are locally grown and harvested. However, these don’t come without their own risk of food poisoning. Read our article about how to keep your Farmer’s Market foods safe here.
Do you have other barbecue safety tips? Tell us what you think in the comments below. You can also contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!
About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!