Monday, June 01, 2015
Have a food-safe summer
For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. For me, it signals the beginning of a season I love even more — picnic and pool party season!
Nothing beats that first bite of a juicy burger fresh off the grill, the first refreshing dip into the pool on a hot day or playing yard games with family and friends after many months of being cooped up indoors.
We all love to get outside when the weather heats up, and we often take our food with us. The trouble is, as we are out basking in the sunshine, we often forget that all the warmth we are enjoying is creating a breeding ground for bacteria in that potato salad we left on the picnic table.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness every year, and a large proportion of these cases occur in the summer months. You may be surprised to learn that on average, 128,000 Americans are hospitalized and 3,000 actually die each year as a result of food poisoning. It’s no laughing matter.
The good news is that you can keep your family safe by following these very basic guidelines:
• Clean — Always maintain proper hand hygiene and thoroughly wash all utensils, cutting boards and countertops with soap and hot water. If you wish, you can also sanitize them by applying a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
• Separate — Always keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from food that is ready-to-eat in your shopping cart, the refrigerator and while preparing food. It is best to store any raw meats on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that juices will not drip onto other foods. Be sure to use separate cutting boards and never place cooked food back onto the same plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs (I’m talking to you, grill masters!).
• Cook — Always cook foods to the recommended temperature and use a food thermometer when grilling. Fish, roasts, steaks, chops and other cuts of meat must be cooked to 145 degrees while poultry and ground meats must reach 165 degrees to assure safety.
• Chill — Keep cold foods below 40 degrees and do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees). Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water. Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter or in hot water.
Follow these simple rules, and I know you will have a fantastically fun and food-safe summer! For more tips and resources, please visit www.foodsafety.gov.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at email@example.com.