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.

Viewing the 2024 Solar Eclipse Safely

A rare celestial event is coming April 8. The moon will pass between the earth and the sun, blocking light from reaching earth and producing a solar eclipse that will be visible from Arizona to Maine.

It’s the second total solar eclipse that has been viewable in the U.S. in less than 10 years, and if you want to experience the full effect of the phenomena live, you won’t get another chance until 2044 without traveling overseas.

In the narrow path of totality (where the sun is completely blocked for a few minutes), night falls. Temperatures drop. Birds stop singing. Only the sun’s corona peeks out from behind the moon. If there’s no cloud cover, it’s an eerie thing to witness.

In ancient times, people saw total eclipses as bewildering portents of doom. Chinese civilizations proposed that a dragon had eaten the sun, while the Inca thought that the gods were expressing their displeasure and must be appeased. Modern science has dispelled such beliefs.

One thing we know for certain: Viewers must not look directly at the sun during the eclipse. Except for the few minutes of totality, you’ll need to wear solar viewing glasses to see the sun during its partial eclipse phase or risk severe eye damage.

You can also use an indirect method to view the eclipse by allowing the sun to project itself on a surface. These methods include a pinhole camera, a “sun funnel,” or options as simple as a kitchen colander or interlaced fingers.

If you are among the up to 4 million who travel to view totality this year, you’re in for an experience. Be forewarned that traffic could be bad on the return trip. Following the eclipse of 2017, people who drove to rural areas in the path of totality faced return commutes more than two-and-a-half times as long, USA Today says.

If you can’t see totality in person, you’ll likely still be able to step outside to view a partial solar eclipse — and you can live-stream the eclipse as it happens with NASA and other sites on your screens without the need for protective glasses. Check it out – it’s a rare event that might inspire your awe.

COVID Is Still a Factor This Summer

Mask mandates are disappearing and COVID-19 transmission is less of a worry in warm weather, but you may still wish to observe precautions depending on your age and risk factors. Watch local transmission rates like you would the weather, CNBC suggests, to gauge the current threat in your area, and continue to wear an N95 mask if it makes you more secure even if no one else does so. “Grocery stores, theaters, hair salons and other public indoor venues are safer with a mask,” AARP says. “Researchers found that people who wore an N95 in public settings were 83 percent less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those who wore no mask.” #SummerSafetyTips

Watch out for Ticks

Spending time in wooded areas this summer? Tick populatiions have exploded in recent years, and depending on the region, they can carry Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They will attack any part of the body, but tend seek warm, damp places such as the underarms, scalp and underwear area, Banner Health says. Check your body for ticks after spending time outdoors; if you discover one, use a tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull it upward and out to ensure it doesn’t leave its mouth parts. Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol. #SummerSafetyTips

Practice Summertime Water Safety

Swimming, boating and water sports are popular summertime activities, but be aware of the threat of unintentional drowning, which causes thousands of deaths every year. “We encourage families to build confidence in the water by learning to be safe, making good choices, learning to swim and how to handle emergencies,” the Red Cross says. Swim in a supervised, lifeguarded areas, it recommends, and designate a “water watcher” to keep an eye on people in and around the water. Learning advanced swimming techniques and CPR are good ideas at every age. #SummerSafetyTips