Food Agriculture & Nutrition Network of Solano County
By Charlotte M. Cantrell, 2016 Napa State Hospital Dietetic Intern
Barbecue and picnic season is quickly approaching as summer is right around the corner! When the weather warms up we have more opportunities for outdoor activities with family and friends; however we often forget about safe food handling. Below I will explain the importance of food safety in summer and will list practical tips to help protect you and your loved ones from foodborne illnesses (a.k.a. “food poisoning”).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the prevalence of foodborne illness doubles during summer months... but why?
As temperatures rise, it is the perfect opportunity for foodborne bacteria to multiply and thrive. Most foodborne bacteria grow the fastest in temperatures ranging from 90 to 110 °F, our typical summer temperatures here in Solano County. Summer months can also be humid, providing moisture to help bacteria flourish. These scorching temperatures combined with humidity create the perfect combination to help foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. When someone ingests this contaminated food, they may experience common food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, aches, and/or fatigue.
I’m guessing that this is not the way you want to start your summer!
It is important to protect ourselves with safe food handling practices as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 48 million yearly cases of foodborne illnesses, and out of those 48 million, 128,000 Americans are hospitalized and 3,000 die after eating contaminated food. By practicing food safety, we can help dwindle these numbers.
As I keep mentioning, food safety is essential, especially during summer! Here are some practical tips on how to protect you and your family as the weather heats up:
1)CLEAN: Make sure to wash hands and surfaces often as unwashed hands are a major cause of foodborne illness.
2)SEPARATE: Cross-contamination during preparation, cooking, grilling and serving food contributes to foodborne illness.
3)COOK: Protect yourself from harmful bacteria by safely cooking food to the correct temperature. Remember to keep hot food hot!
Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures
Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 1
4)CHILL: Refrigerate food ASAP, because holding food at an unsafe temperature can cause foodborne illnesses. Remember to keep cold food cold!
I hope these tips will help you and your family feel prepared as you head into summer. Be sure to keep the temperature danger zone (40-140°F) in mind when you are going to outdoor events. To be safe, you will want to keep cold foods at 40°F or below, and keep hot foods at 140°F or above. Foods are considered unsafe when they have been in the danger zone for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F. If you have any doubts about safe food handling this summer and whether or not something is safe to eat, don’t take a chance; when in doubt, throw it out!
Be sure to check out the below handout from choosemyplate.gov which gives 10 tips on how to be food safe:
Be Food Safe-10 Tips to Reduce the Risk of Foodborne Illness (English)
Be Food Safe-10 Tips to Reduce the Risk of Foodborne Illness (Spanish)