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Summer Food Safety
Q: Summer will be here soon and there will lots of summer activities involving food. How can we assure that the foods served will be safe?
A: Here are some pointers to observe to assure safe and healthy foods:
- The most important practice when handling foods is to have clean, washed hands and a clean preparation surface. When outside where hand washing sinks are not available, keep a hand sanitizer available in the work area.
- Plan your menu with an eye to safe food handling. Cook foods in plenty of time to thoroughly chill them in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
- Have enough coolers with ice or frozen gel packs in which to store the perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and salads. Food needs to be stored at 41 degrees F. or below. Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
- Don’t store the cooler in the car trunk. Carry it inside an air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
- Use a separate cooler for drinks so that one containing the food won’t constantly be opened and closed.
- Find out if there is a source of safe drinking water at your destination. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning; or pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling and serving food is a prime cause of food borne illness.
- Pack raw meats, poultry or seafood on the bottom of the cooler. This will reduce the risk of them dripping on other foods. Pack coolers until they are full. A full cooler will stay cold longer than one that is partially full.
- If you plan on getting takeout foods such as fried chicken, eat them within an hour of pick up.
- Do not partially grill extra meat or poultry to use later. Once you begin, cook until completely done to assure bacteria are destroyed. Grill raw poultry until the juices run clear and there is no pink. Hamburger should not be pink in the center.
- When taking food off the grill, don’t put the cooked items on the same platter which held the raw meat unless you have washed the platter in between uses.
- Follow the 2-hour rule. Don’t leave perishable food un-refrigerated for more than two hours. Put perishable foods back in the cooler or refrigerator as soon as you finish eating. Don’t leave them out while you go for a swim or a hike and don’t leave them out all afternoon to nibble on.
Summer time can be a fun time. In most cases, food is involved. Be safe and have a great summer!
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.
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