With summer in full swing, many families are on the go and taking food and beverages with them. Whether it’s camping outdoors, swimming in the pool, or participating in sporting events, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks for foodborne illness. According to the CDC, it is estimated that 3,000 people die and 128,000 are hospitalized each year due to foodborne illness. Children, older adults, and women who are pregnant are at most risk for developing foodborne illness. So, what can you do to keep yourself and your family safe this summer?
1. Use a cooler. Warmer temperatures outside can accelerate bacterial growth, so it’s always best to keep items stored in a cooler. If you’re headed on a picnic or to the lake, pack a cooler full of water bottles or other healthy beverages and start with half of them frozen. That way you’ll have the benefit of keeping everything cold and not waste room with ice. Make sure to keep high protein items like meats, dairy items like chocolate milk, cheese, yogurts and dips stored on ice.
2. Watch the clock. Potlucks can be a delicious way to try new foods, but be mindful of how long that food has been sitting out. Prepared foods should not be left out on counters or tables for no longer than 2 hours. Allowing foods to sit in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees) creates the perfect environment for harmful microorganisms to grow.
3. Don’t cross contaminate. Cross contamination is the most common mistake that I see in the kitchen. It’s also the one I struggle with the most especially during the summer months. You might take great pride in washing your counters, but watch out for aprons and dish towels. Always wash your hands, use clean cutting boards and utensils, and follow proper cooking temperature recommendations. And be especially careful when handling raw meats, making sure to store raw meats on the bottom of the refrigerator.