Food Safety and the Summer Cookout

Only a week in, this #summer is shaping up to be a hot one for much of the United States. It’s also prime time for family #cookouts, so the home chef would do well to review #food #safety practices for hot weather to head off any health issues that could ruin an otherwise festive event.

An estimated one in six people gets sick from a #foodborne illness each year. Granted, not every foodborne illness results from a #picnic or #cookout, but that seasonal combination of food, outdoor living, shared dishes, heat and pests makes them especially vulnerable.

Mayonnaise-based salads are notorious for spoiling in the sun. Limit cold foods’ potential to harbor harmful bacteria by keeping them indoors until needed, says Martha Stewart, use a cooler to maintain refrigeration, and serve foods such as shrimp over an ice bath.

Other common-sense tips apply whether you grill outdoors or prepare something in the kitchen. First and most obvious? Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before preparing any foods — and wash them again after handling raw meat, fish and egg yolks.

Cross-contamination — the process in which bacteria spreads from food or poorly washed hands to other surfaces — is a problem, Consumer Reports says. Never use the same cutting board for meat and produce, and avoid reaching for the spices or condiments after handling raw meat.

#Clean your grill properly by scrubbing the grates with a grilling brush. Use a food thermometer to cook foods to the proper internal temperatures to ensure that any harmful bacteria burn off: Cook cuts of red meat and fish to a reading of at least 145°F, ground meats to 160°F, and pork and poultry to 165°F.

After the feast, food storage is just as important. Cooked foods should be refrigerated in less than two hours when the outdoor temperatures are under 90°F, and that limit drops to one hour when the temperatures soar. If you don’t know how long something has been sitting or it starts to look/smell a little suspect, throw it out.

Keep your summer cookouts fun for everyone! Protect yourself, your family and your guests from the potential of foodborne illnesses.