Have a Food Safe Summer

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

Picnics and BBQs provide opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends, but these events also present the ideal conditions for foodborne bacteria to thrive.  Here are a few key safety tips to help prevent foodborne illness from appearing at your next cookout.

Wash your hands.

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. When working with raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, thoroughly wash your hands before touching any other food.  Bring your water jug, soap, paper towels, or moist disposable towelettes if your outdoor venue doesn’t have running water.

Beware of cross-contamination

Keep ready-to-eat foods such as green salads, fresh fruit, and buns stored in separate containers from raw meat, and always use different cutting boards, knives, and serving utensils for ready-to-eat foods and meat. Only reuse cooking or serving utensils that have touched raw meat after thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting first.

Take your food’s temperature.

Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.  Hamburgers should be cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and hotdogs heated to a minimum of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Consult this safe internal temperature chart.  

Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.

Cold food should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.  The longer food sits in the danger zone between 40-140 degrees; the more likely illness-causing bacteria will grow.  Food should be discarded after two hours in the danger zone.  If the temperature is 90 degrees or above, the safety window shrinks to just one hour before food should be discarded.

Transport cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.  For service, foods like chicken salad or desserts in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as the ice melts and replace the ice frequently.

Wrap hot food in heavy-duty aluminum foil and store in an insulated carrier until serving.  Grilled food can be kept hot by moving it to the sides of the grill rack away from the coals.  This keeps the food hot but prevents overcooking.

People at risk.

While food poisoning or foodborne illness can affect anyone, certain people are more likely to get sick or have a severe illness.   Older adults, children, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning or foodborne illness.  Click the links below for tips on how to protect individuals in these high-risk groups.

To learn more about food safety by event and season, visit foodsafety.gov. While you’re there, check out this fabulous summer safety infographic.  Print and hang it on your fridge or keep it in your glove box for a handy reference.

Nothing puts a damper on summer fun like foodborne illness. Practicing these fundamental food safety principles will go a long way toward protecting you, your family, and your friends for a safe and healthy summer.

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning. 



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