Hot weather can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. The microbes that cause food poisoning flourish in warmer temperatures. Using a few simple food safety techniques will help you avoid food poisoning at your next outdoor gathering.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
The organisms that cause food poisoning multiply quickly when food is at room temperature or warmer. During the warmest months of the year, food can quickly get into the temperature range that promotes microbe growth.
You can reduce the risk of food poisoning in warm weather by following a few food safety rules:
Clean often. Your hands can be a tool for transferring germs from one food item to another. Wash your hands often while preparing food or putting it away. Always use soap and warm water, and scrub your hands for 20 seconds. Make sure you also clean tools and surfaces in the food preparation area, including any cutting boards and utensils. Warm soapy water is effective at removing germs from surfaces. Rinse all fruits and vegetables under running water.
Separate meat from other ingredients.Raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood can all carry germs that cause food poisoning. They can transfer those germs to different foods if they’re stored or transported close together. To prevent cross-contamination, bag meats, seafood, and poultry separate from other groceries at the store. If you’re taking food to a picnic or barbecue, pack the meat products in a separate container from other foods and drinks. Keep them in a well-chilled cooler or insulated bag until they are ready to cook.
Get it hot enough. Cooking food to a proper temperature kills off any microbes that are in it. You can use a food thermometer to make sure you have gotten meat to the right internal temperature for safety. Different meats need different heat levels to kill off any germs:
- 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb
- 145°F for ham cooked from raw
- 145°F for fin-fish
- 160°F for ground meats
- 165°F for all poultry, whole or ground
- 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
Refrigerate promptly. Get food into the refrigerator before it has a chance to attract new germs. Perishable items should go into the fridge within two hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees. If the weather is hotter than that, refrigerate food within an hour. Keep your fridge set at 40 degrees or cooler to prevent microbes from growing.
So, follow these tips and enjoy your outdoor meals.