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Summer Food Safety

With Memorial Day weekend nearly upon us, most of us are anticipating a fun-filled summer. Days spent outside enjoying picnics and barbecues under the warm summer sun. Despite the carefree nature of it all, food safety becomes a top priority, as cooking and eating outdoors can pose many potential risks. Because warm weather tends to speed up bacterial growth, and proper cooling and washing facilities are not as readily available outside, instances of food borne illnesses tend to increase over the summer.

To keep your risk of food poisoning low, here are some helpful food safety tips for outdoor cooking.

Planning & Packing

  • Only take the amount of food you will actually use.
  • Refrigerated foods should be packed into a cooler immediately before leaving home.
  • Non-cooler items include: whole fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, trail mix, canned meat spreads and peanut butter and jelly (once canned items are opened, store in cooler).
  • Don’t have an insulated cooler?
  • Freezing sandwiches (sans lettuce and tomatoes) beforehand.
  • Fill clean empty milk cartons or bottles with water and freeze to make ice, or freeze gel-packs.
  • Freeze any boxed drinks you may be bringing to supplement as freezer packs.

The Time Out Rule

  • Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (90°F and up), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.
  • Do NOT thaw frozen items outside the refrigerator or without being submerged in cold water.
  • It’s best to cook meat, poultry, etc. completely at the picnic site, rather than partially or precooking ahead of time.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served (140°F or warmer). Keep food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • Plan to keep hot foods hot with a thermos or insulated dish.
  • Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler.
  • Keep these foods cold: raw meat, poultry, and seafood, deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches, summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood), cut up fruit and vegetables, and perishable dairy products.

Keep It Clean

  • When transporting raw meat or poultry, double wrap and place the packages in plastic bags to prevent juices from the raw product dripping on other foods. Always avoid raw meat juices touching other foods to avoid cross contamination.
  • Store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • If there’s no source of clean water, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
  • Don’t forget to pack paper towels.

Keep It Cool

  • Pack foods in reverse order. First foods packed should be the last foods used.

Exception: Pack raw meat or poultry below ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination (as you would in your refrigerator).

  • Keep your cooler full as it will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.
  • Limit the times the cooler is opened. Open and close the lid quickly. Consider packing drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
  • For long trips take along two coolers – one for the days immediate food needs, such as lunch, drinks or snacks, and the other for perishable foods to be used later in the trip.
  • When camping or at a park, keep the cooler in a shady spot covered with a blanket, tarp or poncho (preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat). At the beach, partially bury the cooler in the sand, cover it with blankets, and shade it with a beach umbrella.
  • In a pinch, a heavy cardboard box lined with plastic bags and packed with frozen gel packs or ice will keep things cold.

Separate But Equal

  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables and bread.
  • Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
  • Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food.

Temperature Matters

  • Completely thaw meat, poultry and fish before grilling so it cooks more evenly.
  • Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
  • Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature and clean it between uses.

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures:

  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, and ground poultry: 165°F
  • Ground meats: 160°F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145°F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes
  • Reheat any leftover food to 165°F
  • Heat hot dogs to steaming hot

At Home

  • If using a cooler, leftover perishable food is safe only if the cooler still has ice or frozen packs in it and the food didn’t sit out longer than previously mentioned.
  • Discard unsafe leftover food or immediately store food deemed safe in the refrigerator.

We hope you find these food safety tips helpful. Feel free to share your own tips with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

We’ve got plenty of choices to please your taste buds so come on down to the Brick Your Neighborhood Deli for your yummy sandwich fix! Join us weekdays from 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm.