Stay healthy while enjoying summer fun

Summer activities increase hazardous environments for food. Avoid the temperature danger zone and risk for bacterial growth on food.

Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remind food consumers that foodborne illness peaks during the hot, and often humid, summer months. Natural causes of bacteria from soil, wind and water, as well as those from people and animals can grow faster during the warm, summer months. When temperatures are in the temperature danger zone (90-110 degrees Fahrenheit), bacteria grow even faster, and can cause illness when eaten.

Warm weather and summer activities like camping, barbeques and picnics, can increase hazards to food. Food should be kept out of the temperature danger zone because of its increased risk for bacterial growth. To keep you and your family safe from illness, follow these tips from MSU Extension and the USDA:

  • Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
  • Do not cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely, avoiding raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. To minimize this risk, consider packing raw meats in a separate cooler.
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Food safety experts agree that food is safely cooked when it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Take your thermometer with you. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, use a food thermometer to be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145° Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160° Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer. Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit.
  • Refrigerate promptly. Storing food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Keep cold food cold! This means that food should be kept at temperatures at or below 40° Fahrenheit. To keep food cool, place it in containers on ice. Cold, refrigerated perishable food like lunch meats, cooked meats, chicken and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs or containers of frozen water.
  • Keep leftovers safe. Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. When the temperature reaches 90° Fahrenheit or above, food should not be left out for more than one hour. Play it safe! Once you finish eating, put perishable leftovers back on ice so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat.                                                                             

Following these tips can help you and your family keep food safe while you enjoy fun summer activities.

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