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Safe Outdoor Eating

As summer temperatures rise, so does the risk of Salmonella foodborne illness. In fact, the risk is about four times higher in summer months. Just as you’d guess, it’s harder to keep cold food cold when you’re out on a picnic or having a barbeque. What’s more, the risk for spreading germs to food (cross contamination) is higher.

Safe outdoor eating

Summer means dining al fresco

Here are some tips for keeping your outdoor meals safe as well as fun:

  • Thaw meats safely. This means in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. Time spent at room temperature allows bacteria to multiply.
  • Discard marinade before cooking meat. Marinade can contain bacteria from the raw meat. Pouring used marinade over cooked meat can re-contaminate it and cause illness because there’s no opportunity to cook it again and destroy germs.
  • Keep all your picnic foods—like potato salad, coleslaw, and deviled eggs—cold. The magic number is 40°F or below. If you have access to a refrigerator, you can wait til the last minute to serve these foods. Alternately, set them on clean ice in a closed cooler.
  • Wash produce and keep it cold, too. This means sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and any fruit or vegetable. Cut melon left at ambient temperatures has caused many a foodborne illness.
  • Limit “air” time. Advises the FDA, “Once you’ve served it, food should not sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F.”
  • Choose ingredients wisely. Salmonella is a risk any time you crack an egg for your summer recipes. Try using pasteurized eggs for your homemade mayonnaise recipe or homemade ice cream recipe. Egg pasteurization eliminates bacteria that could later cause foodborne illness.
  • Wash hands. Remember that handling raw meat or playing outside can get foodborne germs on your hands. Just like inside, washing hands before touching food helps keep you safe.
  • Avoid cross contamination. A single set of tongs used on both raw and cooked meat can spread bacteria. Once any plate or utensil has touched raw meat, the trick is to keep that away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Another way to prevent cross contamination is to keep raw meats securely wrapped. Avoid piling them on top of produce or beverage cans in your cooler.
  • Use clean, potable ice for your drinks. The ice under your foods in the cooler is not ideal. Ice for beverages should be in its own, sealed bag.

The basic ideas of managing food temperature and avoiding contamination go a long way in keeping you and your guests safe at any cookout or picnic.

What’s up on your summer menu?