A hot summer day is the perfect time to fire up the grill and eat outdoors with your family — but as the temperature gets higher, so does your risk for foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 6 Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year.
Although anyone can get sick from contaminated foods, certain groups — including infants, children under age 5, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems — are more likely to get a foodborne illness.
The good news is that foodborne illness is preventable — and you can help your patients and clients lower their risk of getting sick. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes guidance on 4 basic steps for preventing foodborne illness — clean, separate, cook, and chill.
We talked with Adam Ghering from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to learn more about these important summer food safety tips.
Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. “Proper hand washing will make sure that consumers and their food stay clean and safe,” Ghering says.
When you grill, use separate, clean cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat food like vegetables — and avoid placing cooked food on plates that previously held raw foods.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry. “Simply looking at the color of meats is not an indicator of doneness,” explains Ghering. A food thermometer is the only way to know if meat and poultry are cooked enough to eat safely. Poultry is safe to eat when it’s cooked to 165° F, and ground beef is safe at 160° F.
The bacteria “danger zone” — the temperature range of 40°F to 140°F — can cause harmful bacteria to grow quickly. On a hot summer day, food can reach this “danger zone” quickly, especially if it’s left out in the sun. “If the temperature outside is above 90° F, make sure you don’t leave food out more than one hour,” Ghering says. When you picnic, pack your food in an insulated cooler with ice to keep cold food cold.