By Diana Lomont, Editorial Contributor
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a picnic or barbecue. But it’s also the season when foodborne illnesses peak, thanks to bacteria multiplying faster in warmer temperatures.
Kelly Urbanik, a licensed dietitian/nutritionist at Orlando Health, recommends these important tips to keep your outdoor meals safe this summer.
Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed” need not be washed.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. Don’t reuse marinade.
Use a thermometer to make sure you cook food thoroughly. Beef, pork and lamb should be cooked to 145°F, chicken and turkey to 165°F.
If You’re Grilling….
Keep “ready” food hot. Grilled food can be kept hot until serving time by moving it to the side of the grill rack.
Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
Clean hands before eating. If you don’t have access to running water, use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist, disposable antibacterial towelettes for cleaning your hands.
Monitor leftovers. Perishable food like cooked or raw meats and salads should never be left out at room temperature for over 2 hours. When the weather gets hot – above 90°F – your window for leaving food out is only 1 hour. When storing leftovers, put them in a shallow dish for quick cooling and refrigerate at 40°F or below.
“By maintaining correct food preparation and storage, you can ensure that you and your family will enjoy outdoor meals that are both delicious and healthy,” says Urbanik.