Enjoy eating outdoors, but be safe when preparing foodSummer just wouldn’t be complete without a picnic at the beach or a barbecue in the back yard. But practices such as putting food in improperly chilled containers or placing raw meat next to cooked foods can increase risk of food-borne illnesses during the summer, said Chris Young, registered dietician at University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
By: Lisa Liddane, The Orange County Register/ MCT
Summer just wouldn’t be complete without a picnic at the beach or a barbecue in the back yard.
But practices such as putting food in improperly chilled containers or placing raw meat next to cooked foods can increase risk of food-borne illnesses during the summer, said Chris Young, registered dietician at University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Four major food-borne illnesses are caused by the following bacteria: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. The common symptom is diarrhea, but in some cases it can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain and headache.
Transported, prepared, cooked and stored properly, summer outdoor food should pose no problem. Here are tips on safe food handling:
Know the basics
Just about any food can become contaminated if handled improperly. But foods rich in protein, such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood, are frequently involved in food-borne illness outbreaks because microorganisms are often found in animal foods. Bacteria break down protein into amino acids for nutrients.
Bacteria grow in warm to hot temperatures. They also need moisture to survive and reproduce. They thrive in foods with high moisture content: starchy, egg-rich foods and cream- based foods such as potato or pasta salads, cream-based soups and custard or cream pies.
Place perishable food in a cooler with ice or freezer packs if you are traveling longer than 30 minutes. Have plenty of ice or frozen gel- packs on hand before starting to pack.
Keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw such as fruits. Be sure it’s wrapped or properly sealed, so its juices don’t escape and drip.
Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler. Meat and poultry may be packed while still frozen to keep them cold longer.
Keep the cooler full. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one partly filled. If the cooler is partly filled, pack the remaining space with more ice or with fruit and nonperishable foods such as peanut butter and jelly and perhaps hard cheeses.
Consider packing drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently. For long trips, take at least two coolers - one for the day’s immediate food needs, such as lunch, drinks or snacks, and the other for perishable foods to be used later.
Keep the cooler in the air- conditioned passenger compartment of your car rather than in the trunk. Limit times the cooler is opened. Open and close the lid quickly.
Know the danger zone for food temperatures. In general, food should be kept chilled to less than 40 degrees and cooked above 140 degrees. Temperatures between these markers enhance bacterial breeding.
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and warm water before handling food and after using the toilet. When handling cooked and raw food, wash your hands before switching from one type of food to another to prevent cross-contamination.
Bring anti-bacterial moist hand wipes if water and soap are not easily available.
Keep plenty of cooking utensils handy, and use separate utensils for raw and cooked food.
Use clean platters or serving dishes for cooked food. Never put cooked food back into containers or platters used for raw food unless these serving pieces have been thoroughly washed with dish soap and hot water. Never allow raw meat, poultry or fish to come in contact with cooked food.
Do not take raw food such as burger patties and food to be heated such as hot dogs out of the cooler until the grill is ready. Leave perishable ready- to-eat food such as a potato salad in the cooler until you are ready to eat.
Cook to a safe internal temperature. Color is not a reliable indication that meat and poultry products are thoroughly cooked. Bring a clean food thermometer to check if food has reached a high enough internal temperature to destroy bacteria.
Ground beef and pork should be heated to 160 degrees; ground poultry to 165 degrees; roast, steaks and chops of beef, veal or lamb to 145 degrees for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium; whole or pieces of poultry to 180 degrees, as measured in the thigh. Clean the thermometer after using it.
Do not keep food exposed to outdoor temperatures for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of taking food off the grill.
On hot days above 90 degrees, refrigerate or freeze within one hour. Throw out food that has been sitting outdoors for more than two hours.
(c) 2002, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.