Nutrition-wise blog

Summer food safety tips

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. June 26, 2013

As the temperature rises, so does our excitement over picnics and grilling. Unfortunately, cases of foodborne illness rise too.

Most people know to keep potato salad cold. But there's more to food safety. Consider the following food for thought as you plan your summer outings.

Check the forecast. You know to refrigerate perishable food within two hours. But did you know that drops to one hour when the temperature is above 90 F (32 C)? Serve, eat and get food back in the cooler.

Come clean. If your picnic spot doesn't have clean running water, bring some with you. Bring wipes or sanitizing gel for surfaces and hands. Wash hands before food prep and after handling raw meats.

Keep your cool. Use an insulated cooler with ice, ice packs or partially frozen items to keep food at 40 F (4 C) or cooler.

Pack smart. Keep separate coolers for food and beverages. Chances are people will be in and out of the beverage cooler, which lets cold air escape. To keep food as cold as possible, keep that cooler closed until you're ready to cook. Pack meat in plastic and put it on the bottom of the cooler to prevent it from leaking on other foods. Pack two platters — one for raw meat and one for cooked meat.

Use a thermometer. Don't rely on the color of meat to judge when it's cooked enough. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Safe minimum temperatures are:

  • 165 F (74 C) for any type of poultry
  • 160 F (71 C) for ground meat other than poultry
  • 145 F (63 C) for solid cuts, such as steaks, of meat or fish

So enjoy the warmer weather but keep food safety in mind as you pack your picnic cooler or fire up the grill.

Jun. 26, 2013