Now that summer is here, it is time for picnics and BBQ’s in the beautiful weather– but be careful to not let food poisoning spoil the fun. The USDA would like to remind people that summer is the season with the highest prevalence of food-borne disease. This is because illness-causing bacteria thrive at warm summer temperatures, and as people begin eating outdoors more frequently, food is exposed to less sanitary conditions. For example, the CDC states that Salmonella, which causes 1 million food-borne illnesses annually, occurs more in the summer due to poor food storage and preservation. Additionally, while most food-borne illness is treatable from home, the CDC emphasizes that for some people diseases like Salmonella can be incredibly serious and sometimes fatal.
The key to minimizing food-borne illness is to ensure safe food preparation and storage practices recommended by the USDA. If preparing food outdoors, make sure all cooking and eating surfaces are sanitary, and make sure your hands are clean before touching food, even if in an area without running water, by using hand sanitizer. When storing food, make sure to use a cooler with plenty of ice or freezer packs to last the whole day. Perishable food should not be eaten if left out for more than two hours. A helpful list to remember best practices by the USDA is: clean, separate, cook, chill.
- Clean: Always make sure to clean your hands before and after touching food and at regular intervals.
- Separate: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from all other food. Use separate plates and utensils for raw meat, and throw out food if contaminated.
- Cook: Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, and don’t consume under-cooked food; a list of safe minimum internal temperatures can be found here.
- Chill: Bacteria grows fastest in the ‘danger zone,’ or the range of temperatures between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Minimize the amount of time food spends in this window, and refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.
If a food-borne illness has caused you or a loved one to suffer, you owe it to yourself to take action. The team at Regan Zambri Long PLLC can help. Reach out today to learn how we can assist you with your food safety case.