Summer Food Safety

Armen Hareyan's picture

Warm weather is a favorite time for picnics and cookouts. However, it is also the best time for bacteria and other micro-organisms to grow and contaminate food.

Although the United State's food supply is among the safest in the world, more than 75 million cases of food-borne illnesses are reported each year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for keeping food safe, but there also are many things each cook can do to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Lorie Ann Phillips, a registered dietitian at Durham Regional Hospital, part of the Duke University Health System, says that to keep food safe, everyone must consider shopping, storage, handling, preparation and food transportation.

Food safety begins with shopping. Phillips recommends buying frozen foods last, just before heading for the checkout counter. She says it is also important to always check expiration dates on packaging.

As for storing food, refrigerate or freeze perishables immediately after arriving home from the supermarket, and keep foods well away from household cleaning products.

In the kitchen, the top priority is keeping everything clean, including food containers, cutting boards and utensils. Avoid cross-contamination by washing kitchen utensils after cutting meat, and refrain from using the same platters for raw and cooked meat and poultry.

During warm weather, Phillips cautions people to be particularly careful with foods made with raw eggs or partially cooked eggs or mayonnaise.


"This includes potato salad, chicken or tuna salads and macaroni salads," she says. "You want to pay special attention to these kinds of dishes. Keep them in the cooler as much as possible because of the risk of salmonella."

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headache.

Phillips adds that it is important to cook meat and poultry thoroughly and to keep meats hot until served.

"It's good to check with a meat thermometer when you're cooking, Phillips says. "Most meat should be 160 degrees. If you're cooking poultry, for example, a breast, you want it to be 170 degrees internal temperature."

Finally, discard any leftovers from a cookout left outdoors for more than an hour.


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