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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: Summer food safety

Anna Grindeland, RD, CD

Did you know?

...that each year roughly 1 out of 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.

AND….

...that the same pathogens that cause food poisoning can cause arthritis, kidney failure, meningitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The Food and Drug administration estimates that about two to three percent of all food poisoning cases lead to secondary long-term illness such as these!

It may not be glamorous, but Food Safety is important! Food safety is a concern all year, but summertime can be especially worrisome. During the summer, we eat more meals outside in the summer heat, take food on picnics, and cook on a grill. There are many common mistakes that can have major consequences, so remember these key points to help keep your family healthy and safe:

  1. Wash your hands: A large percentage of food poisoning cases could be eliminated if people would wash their hands more often when preparing and handling food. When you are cooking out, use a public bathroom to wash your hands or bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm, running water before and after handling food.
  2. Use a thermometer: You cannot rely on sight, smell or taste to tell whether your food is done. Cooked food is safe only after it's been heated to a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria, which differs by meat:
  3. Keep raw food separate from cooked: Never let raw meat, poultry or seafood touch cooked meat or any ready-to-eat foods as this can cause cross-contamination. Foodborne pathogens from the raw meat can easily spread to ready-to-eat foods and cause food poisoning. Always use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils to keep raw meats, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  4. Be Prepared: When cooking meat outside, make sure you are prepared with two sets of plates and utensils for raw and cooked. It is also good practice to transport raw meats in a separate cooler than your cooked and ready-to eat foods. Pack hand sanitizer or soap, paper towels, and plastic garbage bags to keep your outdoor cooking space clean and safe. 
  5. Don’t reuse marinade: Never use the same marinade for raw meat and cooked food. If you use the same marinade on raw and cooked meats, the harmful bacteria from the raw food can spread to the cooked food. Always marinate raw meat, seafood and poultry in the refrigerator and only reuse marinade if you bring it to a boil just before using.
  6. Put leftovers away: Don't leave food out of the refrigerator or COLD cooler for more than two hours or one hour if it is over 90°F outside. Illness-causing bacteria can grow rapidly when perishable foods are left in the danger zone — between 40°F and 140°F. Always refrigerate foods in a timely matter. If you are on a road trip, tailgating or picnicking, pack perishable foods in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice.

Looking for a tasty dish for your next cookout? Try these jerk chicken kabobs.

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.