Food-borne bacteria and warm weather can be fast friends. So eat, drink and be safe this season by taking precautions when preparing and eating food outdoors.
Nothing says Memorial Day like an outdoor barbecue or picnic. But with those welcomed temperatures comes food-borne bacteria — which thrives in warm weather and multiplies rapidly as temperatures get hotter. But there’s no need to move your alfresco party indoors just yet. By taking a few simple precautions, you can protect against food-borne illness and enjoy the holiday.
Prep, Pack and Drive
Don’t just toss grocery sacks filled with hot dogs, potato salad and ketchup in the trunk of your car. Take time to prep your foods and pack and transport them safely to the picnic site to avoid pathogens, bacteria or cross-contamination.
- Marinate meat (make sure it’s not expired!) in the refrigerator. Set aside any marinade you may want for sauce beforehand. Discard marinade that has touched raw meat.
- All meats, including deli meats, cheeses and condiments should be kept in a cooler below 40 degrees. Securely package meat, poultry and seafood to prevent cross-contamination from juices. Packing frozen meat ensures it stays cold longer.
- If possible, pack beverages separately so that perishable items will not be repeatedly exposed to warm temperatures each time a picnicker opens the cooler for a drink. Freeze water bottles and juice boxes ahead of time.
- Transport coolers in the backseat of an air-conditioned vehicle, not in a hot trunk.
- At the end of the day, do not reuse containers that transported raw meat. Throw away uncooked leftovers and keep cooked leftovers cold.
- Always clean out coolers between uses with soap and water.
Safeguard the Grill
Be mindful when cooking food and handling both prepared and raw meats. Following a few simple rules guarantees food is safe to eat when it hits the table or picnic blanket.
- Wash hands before, during and after preparing food. Keep hand sanitizer available in case you don’t have access to soap and water.
- If you’re eating at home and use the grill year-round, scrub the grill with hot, soapy water.
- Use separate plates for raw foods to be cooked and prepared foods ready to be eaten. The same goes for utensils.
- Keep cooked meats hot until served. Simply move them to the side of the grill away from the coals.
- Cook meats thoroughly:
- Hamburgers, pork and hot dogs: 160 degrees
- Chicken: 165 degrees
- Steaks and fish: 145 degrees
When it’s time to eat, the most important thing — besides digging in — is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent the growth of foodborne bacteria.
Hot foods should remain above 140 degrees. Once prepared, wrap and place them in an insulated container until consumed.
After they’re served, hot foods should not sit out for more than one hour when the outside temperature is 90 degrees or above. You have a two-hour window if the temperature is below 90 degrees.
Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or below. As with hot foods, cold foods left sitting out for an hour in outside temperatures above 90 degrees should be discarded. Toss cold foods after two hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees.
Keep coolers closed as much as possible.
And last but certainly not least: Have fun and enjoy the fruits — and good taste — of your labors. Happy Memorial Day!