Memorial Day is almost here and that means many people are getting ready to head outside to soak up the sun with cookouts. However, warmer weather also increases the risk of foodborne illness. That is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding families to take extra care to not let foodborne bacteria ruin the fun.
Some helpful information includes:
Start with a clean slate
The first step to a safe and healthy meal is clean hands. Always wash your hands before and after you handle any foods. When you’re eating outdoors you may not have access to soap and water, so it’s a good idea to bring along hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, remember to regularly clean your cooler, picnic basket and tote bags as these items can be breeding grounds for bacteria.
Separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eat foods
If you are planning to cook food outside, separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other ready-to-eat foods. It’s suggested to use one cooler for raw meats and another one for ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and desserts. Also make sure to have two sets of plates and utensils: one for handling raw meats and one for serving cooked foods.
Pack the food thermometer
Raw meat, poultry and seafood must be cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria, and a food thermometer is the only way to make sure it is safe. The USDA recently launched its FoodKeeper mobile app, which contains specific guidance on more than 400 food and beverage items, including safe cooking recommendations for meat, poultry and seafood products.
Keep the cooler cool
Pack all perishable food in a cooler and make sure it stays below 40°F. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. Keep coolers out of the direct sun and avoid opening them repeatedly so your food stays colder longer.
Toss perishable foods
At the end of your gathering, throw out all perishable food that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours or only one hour if the temperature is over 90°F.
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