Summertime Food Safety

By Beth Kitzis, Research Dietitian –

With the start of summer comes warmer temperatures and frequent celebrations with delicious food. Unfortunately, while this is a beautiful time of year, it’s also a time when foodborne illnesses (also known as food poisoning) can be more common. Here are some tips to help keep you safe this summer and all year long.

Make sure to keep things clean. Always wash your hands before and after handling food, especially raw meat! Always wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. You should also clean cooking tools, cutting boards, and countertops after use. Never wash raw poultry, fish, or meat, as this can cause the spread of bacteria around your sink.

Cross-contamination can be a significant contributor to foodborne illnesses. Ensure raw foods such as fruits and vegetables are stored separately from raw meats or fish, and never use the same cutting boards and knives to prepare meat and vegetables without sanitizing them first. Never reuse marinades for raw meats unless you bring them to a boil first.

Be sure to cook foods to the right temperature. To avoid illness, cook meats to the following temperatures:

  1. Beef, pork, lamb – 145 degrees
  2. Fish – 145 degrees
  3. Ground beef, pork, lamb – 160 degrees
  4. Poultry – 165 degrees

Leaving food out in the hot weather for more than 2 hours – especially those with foods that can quickly spoil, such as dairy or mayonnaise – can lead to bacteria growth in food and cause illness. Put foods in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours after cooking or buying from the store. 

Never thaw food on the counter. Thaw foods in the refrigerator, under cold water, or in the microwave. Always marinate foods in the fridge.

Finally, remember the mantra: “when in doubt, throw it out!” If you think food smells “suspicious” or has been left out too long in the warm weather, it is always safer to dispose of the food than risk getting sick.

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