Food safety reminders for your summer fun

Food safety reminders for your summer fun

It is time to talk about food safety and picnics again. Hot foods need to remain hot, and cold foods need to be cold.

Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. Most food-borne illness outbreaks come from germy fingers and uncontrolled body fluids. Warm water and plenty of hand scrubbing with soap can kill a multitude of bad germs.

A common kitchen towel is not always clean and sanitary. Use a clean towel or paper towels to dry your hands when cooking and serving. Hand sanitizers are not substitutes for clean hands, but they are better than nothing.

Avoiding cross contamination is a key in keeping food safe. Never mix raw food with cooked or ready-to-eat food. Cutting boards need to be washed and rinsed after cutting raw products and before using for another food.

Usually, one of the biggest errors in backyard barbecuing is putting cooked meats on the plate that held the meat before it was cooked. Take two plates out to the grill: one with raw food and one for the cooked food to serve. Do not let bloody liquid from the raw product touch the cooked food.

Switch to a clean utensil after placing raw items on the fire to cook. Use that clean plate when taking the burgers off the grill. Always keep raw and cooked foods separate.

Place a serving utensil into every item that is being served. Use one serving utensil per food. Dirty fingers could introduce unwanted microbial guests to your party. Switching tongs or spoons from one food to another leads to cross-contamination.

Food needs to be kept above 135 F or below 41 F. Food that is stored between the temperatures of 41-135 F allows bacteria to grow. This is called the temperature danger zone.

If menu items are kept at room temperature or above 70 F for more than four hours, throw them away. Large food roasters can keep hot foods hot but be careful a high temperature does not overcook or dry out the food. Mushy potatoes may be safe but not the same quality after six hours at 300 F.

Buy a food thermometer. Follow the directions to calibrate it, if necessary, and use it. Most people keep their refrigerator above 32 and below 41 F. I recommend setting your refrigerator at 37-39 F to allow for temperature fluctuations when the door is often opened.

Special attention to assure safe temperatures is important while cooking and serving food outdoors. If the predicted weather is above 70 F, use plenty of ice. Use a kiddie swimming pool filled with ice as a makeshift cold serving line for salads. Check temperatures often.

The important thing to remember is to leave your guests with pleasant memories of an outdoor party, not the décor of the bathroom. Practice safe food-handling and have fun.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at

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