Wednesday, June 5, 2019

By Connelly Weeks, RDN, LD

Summer time is the season for cookouts and potlucks. This beloved tradition is nothing short of downright American, but along with the summer heat comes a higher risk of food borne illness outbreaks. Many harmful bacteria grow best in warm moist environments, so a hamburger patty left sitting out too long, for example, is a perfect habitat for microbes to flourish. Here are some food safety tips to keep you and your friends safe while you grill out this summer.

  • When storing leftover food be sure to cover, label, and date all items. Be sure what was purchased first is used first. Use the helpful acronym “FIFO” which stands for “First In, First Out”
  • Keep foods out of the temperature Danger Zone. All foods contain bacteria that can multiply rapidly within certain temperatures. The temperature danger zone is between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. No foods should be in the danger zone for more than a few hours.
  • Never thaw frozen foods by leaving them out to sit at room temperature.  Instead use one of these safe thawing methods:

            - Leave in a refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below

            - Submerge under cool running water

           - Thaw in a microwave oven (only if cooking immediately follows)

           - Thaw as part of the cooking process

  • When reheating leftovers, be sure the food reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F within 2 hours, otherwise throw it out.
  • Proper hand-washing is one of the best defenses against foodborne illness. Water temperature should be at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Scrub hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Dry your hands with a paper towel and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door of a restroom.
  • When storing foods in the refrigerator raw foods and meats should always be stored below cooked or ready to eat foods. Store foods from top to bottom in the following order: ready to eat/prepared foods, whole fish, whole cuts of beef or pork, ground meats.

*Information adapted from Norman Regional HealthStream Learning Center food safety modules.