Foodborne illness peaks in the summer. It happens because bacteria present throughout the environment and in the bodies of people and animals grow faster in warm summer months and outdoor activities increase. More people are cooking outside, without the safety controls of a kitchen.
Follow these 4 simple steps to avoid foodborne illness:
Wash hands and surfaces often.
Wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food. Be sure to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, changing a diaper, or handling pets. The CDC recommends following five steps to wash your hands the right way.
Follow these five steps every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or an air dryer.
When packing a cooler, securely wrap raw meats and keep them away from other foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash plates, containers, and utensils that were used for raw meats or poultry before using them for cooked food.
Cook to safe temperatures.
Take your food thermometer with you to check if meat and poultry have been completely cooked. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them. Different types of meat require different temperatures. The chart below shows the temperatures that the USDA recommends.
Refrigerate food promptly.
Be sure you are keeping refrigerated, perishable food, such as luncheon and cooked meats, chicken, and salads, chilled always. Consider putting canned beverages in another cooler because it probably will be opened frequently. If you have leftovers, do not leave them out for more than two hours. If you have any doubts, throw it out. The USDA has some tips on Leftovers and Food Safety.
If you suspect you have a foodborne illness and are experiencing diarrhea, high fever, blood in stools, prolonged vomiting, severe dehydration, or signs of shock or confusion, you should see a doctor right away. Most foodborne illnesses can be treated by increasing fluid intake to replace lost fluids or electrolytes, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.