Winter season safety

Keeping food safe will prevent foodborne illness.

As seasons change from summer picnics to fall bonfires, hayrides, and sports tailgating, to winter ice skating, ice fishing, sledding, and snowmobiling, the concern for safe food should not. As the year goes by, the temperatures change, but there are still some food safety reminders to think about.

The saying “Keep Hot Food Hot and Cold Food Cold” still applies. The temperature danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is very important. Most bacteria will not grow below 40 F or above 140 F. Some foods to take along on a winter outing might be: peanut butter in a plastic jar; concentrated juice boxes; canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef; dried noodles and soups; beef jerky and other dried meats; dried fruits and nuts. None of these need temperature control to keep them safe.

Michigan State University Extension recommends keeping raw meat, seafood, and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. Pack the raw meat in a separate cooler from the ready to eat foods and beverages. 

A food thermometer is essential to determine if the meat and poultry are thoroughly cooked. The color of cooked meat is never a determination of whether the meat is cooked to the correct temperature. When cooking ground beef, the temperature needs to get to a temperature of 160 F to kill E. coli, which is a particularly dangerous food-borne illness bacteria. For cooking raw beef, pork, and lamb steaks or chops, the temperature needs to register 145 F on a thermometer. Heat hotdogs to steaming hot, but if they are being reheated, the temperature needs to get to 165 F on a thermometer. For cooking poultry, the minimum safe internal temperature is 165 F as measured on a thermometer.

When it comes to drinking water, do not depend upon lakes, streams or clean snow. Snow or water from a stream or lake would need to be boiled first before drinking to kill microorganisms. Bottled water or tap water is best. If there is no running water, be sure to take along disposable hand wipes and hand sanitizer to wash hands before and after eating. Disposable paper towels are good to have along as well.

When you are enjoying a winter outing, think food safety. Keep everything Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw meat, poultry, and seafood to prevent cross-contamination. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The last thing you want to bring home from a fun winter activity is a food borne illness.

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