Keep it safe while hosting summer parties!

The risk of foodborne illness increases in the summer with the warmer temperatures and cooking outside. You can reduce your friends and families risk of food poisoning by following some food safety guidelines.

With the warm weather here and summer parties upon us, it is important to remember several important food safety practices during the different food preparation stages to ensure a safe, fun summer.

Because of the warm temperatures, foods can quickly reach the danger zone, the temperature between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit where illness causing bacteria rapidly multiply. Your refrigerator should be maintained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly lower and the freezer should be set for zero degree. Use a thermometer to check the interior temperature of your refrigerator as it may need to be put on a lower temperature setting in the summer.

When you purchase foods at the grocery store, keep the raw meat and poultry separated from cooked foods or foods that are eaten raw, such as vegetables or fruit. While transporting the food to your home, keep the perishable items inside the air-conditioned car rather than the trunk. Drive immediately home from the store. If your drive exceeds 30 minutes, bring a cooler with ice and place the perishables in it during the transport. Unload perishable foods from the car first and place them in the refrigerator or freezer immediately.

While preparing your foods for a picnic or grilling, keep in mind simple menus for easy food preparation. Michigan State University Extension reminds you to keep your cold foods cold and your hot foods hot. This means marinating meats in the refrigerator, nesting vegetable or chip dips in ice and storing all perishable foods in a well-insulated cooler with a lot of ice. Keep all raw meats and their juices separate from other foods and wash any plates and utensils with hot, soapy water before placing cooked meats upon. Do not baste your cooking meats with marinade that was used for raw foods. Cook meats thoroughly until the juices no longer run pink. Use an instant read thermometer to check internal temperature of the food you are cooking. Poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meat to an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit and roasts of pork, beef or lamb must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind the importance of washing your hands with warm, soapy water before, during and after handling food.

The next important food safety consideration is handling leftovers. Raw or cooked foods at room temperature need to be stored in a refrigerator or cooler within two hours. On a hot day with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, this time decreases to one hour. If you are using a cooler for keeping foods cool, minimize the amount of time perishable foods are outside of the cooler.

For more tips on keeping food safe while camping, cooking for crowds or being on the road visit the United States Department of Agriculture Seasonal Food Safety tip sheets. By keeping food safety in mind, summertime barbeques can be safe and tasty.

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