Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, E. Coli, Listeria, Clostridium perfringens, Cyclospora — were these names on the guest list for your last barbeque or picnic? I would hope not! These are not guests that you would want to be attending your event; these are the names of the bacteria, viruses and parasites that are common causes of food poisoning. Symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary, depending on what has contaminated the food. The best way to avoid food poisoning is to practice proper food handling habits.
It is important to be vigilant and handle food safely all the time. But it gets more difficult in the summer when we serve food outdoors. There is usually limited refrigeration to keep cold foods cold. There is often not electricity to plug in appliances to keep hot foods hot. And the dishwashing facilities are usually not that great either.
So, play it safe this summer with your food. Remember these three important tips when preparing and serving food outside this summer:
- Avoid the Danger Zone: Keep food out of the “danger zone,” which is between the temperatures of 40 degrees and 140 degrees. In other words, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Prevent Cross Contamination: Don’t use cutting boards, utensils or serving plates that mix raw and prepared or ready-to-serve foods. For example, put the steaks on a clean serving plate when they come off the grill; not on the plate you used to bring the raw meat to the grill.
- Wash Your Hands. Wash hands with soap and water during food preparation, especially between tasks. If you don’t have access to soap and water, pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer. And be sure everyone washes their hands before digging in.
When you use these basic food safety tips and common sense, you can enjoy many wonderful, summer days. Summer is too short to have it ruined by unwanted bacteria and viruses!