Summer is in full swing. Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. You can’t see, taste or smell bacteria, but it can be on food and multiply rapidly in moist, warm conditions. If consumed, harmful bacteria can cause foodborne illness. Bacteria multiplies quickly at room temperature and extra caution should be used when preparing and serving food outside. Stay healthy and safe during warmer months by following these food safety recommendations from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service:
1. Before you begin:
* Shop the perimeter of your grocery store last. Choose meat, poultry, or seafood that is fresh and high quality!
* Get all perishables in the refrigerator as quickly as possible.
o Use a cooler/insulated bag if it will take more than 30 minutes to get home.
* Cook or Freeze fresh poultry, fish, seafood, or ground beef within 1 to 2 days. Cook or Freeze steak and pork chops within 4 to 5 days.
* Thaw Safely: In the refrigerator! NEVER thaw at room temperature
2. Transporting your food to a picnic or cookout:
* Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
* Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
* NEVER store ready-to-eat food in the same cooler with the raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
* A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
* Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer
3. Keeping it clean!
Keeping hands, cooking area and cooking utensils clean can reduce the spread of harmful germs to food. When cooking away from home, make sure there is plenty of clean water for washing hands and utensils. If there is not a source of clean water, bring your own. Paper towels, towelettes, and hand sanitizer can also be used to clean hands if necessary. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers can reduce germs but they will not be as effective if hands have visible dirt on them.
* Wash your hands before and after touching raw meat, poultry or seafood.
* Wash your surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water and SANITIZE before and after grilling.
* After you placed the raw foods on the grill, wash utensils and platters with hot soapy water and sanitize before using them to serve the cooked food!!!
4. Cook foods to a Safe Internal Temperature
Cook foods to a safe internal temperature so harmful germs are killed. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill can brown very quickly, making it look like it is done. However, the only way to tell if a food is cooked enough is to measure the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
* Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
* Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
* ALWAYS use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
o Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
o Ground meats: 160 °F
o Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
* Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
* Don’t re-use marinades. Be sure to discard used marinade—this will prevent raw meat juices getting on your cooked food. If you plan on using the marinade as a sauce for cooked meat, reserve some before marinating the meat.
* Wash produce thoroughly Wash fruit and veggies in cool tap water before eating to eliminate any bacteria. This includes washing produce like melon before you slice or peel it to make sure bacteria isn’t transferred from the knife to your fruit or veggies.
* Wash reusable grocery store bags If use reusable grocery bags, it’s important to wash them regularly. Studies found that harmful bacteria can linger in your totes and hitch a ride with ready-to-eat foods like produce.
* Don’t re-use marinades WHEN IN DOUBT – THROW IT OUT!!!!
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