Fitness Facts: Summer food handling tips
By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
We often have cookouts and outdoor gatherings surrounding food during the summer. The warm weather can ripen food faster, exposing us to unwanted illness.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, when temperatures rise, bacteria flourishes. Contaminated and unsafe food, especially in summers, causes more infections and diseases, ranging from diarrhea and cramps to severe infections like jaundice and typhoid. More than 200 diseases are spread through contaminated food or water.
Most people are unaware that the most dangerous bacteria that causes food poisoning does not affect food’s look, smell or taste. The food may look perfectly all right to eat yet could be contaminated, especially in the hot weather.
Did you know?
- 1 in 6 Americans get food poisoning each year
- 128,000 hospitalizations are a result of foodborne illness yearly
Here are a few tips to avoid food borne illnesses:
- Clean surfaces, utensils and hands with soap and water. If you are having a picnic, bring moist towelettes to use.
- Pack away unwanted food. Food that is left out in warm temperatures for more than an hour (especially if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees) are more prone to the illness-causing bacteria to grow. Leftovers should be wrapped and refrigerated as soon as possible.
- Marinate your meat in the refrigerator. Leaving foods on the counter in a warm room is begging for food poisoning.
- Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
- Do not reuse any marinade that was with meat, raw fish, chicken, poultry or meat.
- Grill your meat well done. Red meats and fish should reach a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry should reach 165 Fahrenheit to assure bacteria is wiped out. Invest in a food thermometer to help determine the temperature.
- Raw and cooked foods should never touch the same surface without sanitizing the hot, soapy water.
- Deviled eggs: Refrigerate prepared eggs until they are ready to be served and, once out, keep them nestled in ice to keep them cool.
- Chop all produce with clean knives on cutting boards not used with raw meat.
- Do not mix utensils. Food bacteria can transfer from one utensil to the next, if used between uncooked and cooked meats.
- Wash all produce under plain running water before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you plan to peel them.
- Bring a cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs (a safe temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit). It can be used in place of a refrigerator if one is not available. Place cold items in the cooler and never leave them out.
- Always wash or sanitize your hands. Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent illness.
Preparation is the key! Plan ahead and be aware of the dangers so Montezuma does not get its revenge!