Food safety in the summertime

The likelihood of contracting foodborne illness is higher during the summer. Here are tips to cutting back on risks.

During the lazy days of summer, rates of foodborne illness increase because bacteria thrives in hot, humid weather and because people are doing more outdoor activities where food is involved.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Inspection Service each year foodborne illness sickens one in six Americans, results in 128,000 hospitalizations, causes 3,000 deaths and costs the U. S. economy $15.6 billion. Those most at risk are babies and young children, pregnant women, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.

The most effective ways to help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness is by following the four basic food safety steps that are supported by Michigan State University Extension:

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds
  • Pack moist towelettes for a picnic
  • Rinse produce well and dry with a paper towel 
  • Do not wash raw meat and poultry before cooking
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods
  • Use plastic bags at the grocery store to keep raw meat and poultry separate from other Items in your shopping cart
  • When grilling, use separate plates/utensils for raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat foods
  • Never place cooked food on the same plate that held raw meat or poultry
  • Cooking to a safe internal temperature will destroy food poisoning bacteria
  • Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness, so always use a food thermometer
  • Eat leftovers in 3-4 days
  • Freeze cooked leftovers that you won’t be eating
  • Put cold foods, that you purchase at the grocery store, in a cooler or insulated bag, with an ice pack or bagged ice
  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and your freezer at 0 F or below
  • Chill all raw and cooked foods promptly to avoid The Danger Zone (40 – 140 F)
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (or one hour if the temperature is above 90 F)
  • Put appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer so that you know your refrigerator and freezer are keeping your food at the right temperature

None of us should be wasteful with food. Taking care to handle food safety goes a long way to prevent food waste and foodborne illnesses. Always remember this phrase: Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, but when in doubt, throw it out.

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