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Why is there more food poisoning during the summer?

The answer to this is actually really straightforward, when you think about it. Summertime is a great time of year, when people are having BBQs, potlucks, and other gatherings at outdoor venues. The temperatures outside are warm, and this creates the perfect breeding ground for the most common bacteria that cause food poisoning. The most important thing you can do to combat this is make sure foods that should stay cold stay cold, and likewise with foods that should be warm.

Luckily, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods have joined together to create a Home Food Safety program to help you to safely move your cooking outdoors. Here are their top BBQ Blunders and how to prevent your next outdoor cooking outing from turning into an unexpected trip to your local hospital ER:

Handle Your Food with Clean Hands:
While your backyard BBQ pit may become your outdoor kitchen in the summer, it is likely you are missing an important kitchen fixture: a sink outdoors. Make sure you wash your hands before, during, and after handling foods.  If there isn't a sink available, keep a package of moist towelettes close by the grill master.

Dish the Dishtowel:
One of the biggest BBQ blunders is to use the same dishtowel repeatedly to wipe your hands and juicy spills from bacteria-laden raw meat, poultry, and fish. Instead, reach for the "one-time only" paper towels.

Baste For Taste:
When marinating raw meats, separation is also the name of the game. Using the same brush to baste raw meat and then "finishing off" cooked meats with the same brush is a blunder in the making. Either wash the brush in hot soapy water or use two different brushes. Also, don't use the basting marinade as a finishing sauce as it could contain ugly foodborne pathogens. Either boil the marinade first, or better yet, make a new marinade as the serving sauce.

Consider the Food Thermometer Your Best Friend:
If anyone is going to be invited to your BBQ, it should be your friendly food thermometer. A poke with the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat is the only safe way to know if it is safe to eat. News flash: The FDA just lowered their recommended cooking temperature for all meats, including pork:
  • Whole meat should reach 145 degrees F and then sit for 3 minutes before consuming it.
  • Ground meats (beef, veal, lamb, pork) should reach 160 degrees F.
  • Poultry (ground and whole) should reach 165 degrees F.

Cool It!
Keep a refrigerator thermometer in your cooler to make sure that the ice or ice packs are keeping your perishables below 40 degrees F.

Remember the Two or One Hour Rule:
Foods kept at room temperature for two hours need to be tossed. In hot weather (90 degrees F or above), foods left out for more than one hour should be discarded.

For more food safety information, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Maintaining food at the right temperature prevents food poisoning.  If food is not kept at the right temperature, or kept out for more than one hour in 90+ degrees F or for more than two hours in <90 degrees F, there is increased growth of bacteria and food poisoning risks go up.  Visit foodsafety.org for more food safety tips.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.