As the weather gets warmer, the food at our picnics, BBQs and outdoor events grows a little more dangerous. With the temperature “danger zone” between 40-140°F, summer temperatures yield the ideal breeding grounds for food borne illness. Here are some tips to keep everyone healthy this summer!
- Stay where you are: The most important tip to remember is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Cold food should be stored, transported, or set out with ice or leak-proof ice packs surrounding it. Keeping these foods at or below 40°F will stop the growth of bacteria. If using a cooler, limit the number of times the cooler is opened. This will help to keep the food at a safe temperature. Foods to be kept cold include mayonnaise based salads (egg, chicken, tuna) or dips (fruit, chip); milk based desserts, luncheon meats, and sliced melons.
- Turn up the heat: Hot foods should be kept well insulated until it is time for serving. Be sure to cook hot foods thoroughly before insulating. Prior to serving, food should be heated to 140°F. Clean utensils and hands should (as always!) be used to handle these foods.
- Cover it up: Insects carry all sorts of bacteria that can make you sick. Avoid this by keeping foods in covered containers or inside enclosed areas while serving. Fans and citronella candles can keep some pests away, but not all. Be sure to cover drinks (especially sugary ones!) to avoid attracting bees, wasps, and ants. Lastly, place your trash in a distant, but still convenient, place to deter the bugs from coming too close!
- When in doubt…throw it out! If a food item happens to be left out for more than 2 hours or smells funny, discard it. If outside temperatures are greater than 90°F, food should be discarded after 1 hour of sitting out. In individuals with suppressed immune systems, food borne illness can cause serious health concerns such as fever, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, cramping, and potentially deadly infections.
- Clean your plate: Try to plan to have little or no leftovers. The majority of the time these foods have been sitting out for too long and have been handled by too many people or insects (gross!). Having little to no food waste will remove the temptation of taking the rest of that potato salad home for a late-night snack.
- Plan ahead: If you are unsure of your ability to store and prepare these foods properly, choose to bring items that do not require refrigeration. These include peanut butter sandwiches, crackers, trail mix (dried fruit, nuts, and pretzels), canned food items, and cookies.
Here’s an idea for a great snack that requires no refrigeration. Plus, it’s high in fiber and “good” fats. Feel free to enjoy it wherever and whenever!
No-Fuss Trail Mix Recipe
1 bag of light butter popped microwave popcorn
1 cup lightly salted roasted almonds
½ cup raisins or crasins
2 cup cheerios
½ cup pistachios
1 cup pretzels
Pop popcorn in microwave. Mix all ingredients in bowl. Enjoy!