Food safety reminders for your weekend BBQ

Tailgate_D3Campaign2012_resizedPicnic and barbecue season is upon us, which offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. However, these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly which can lead to foodborne illness.

To protect yourself, your family and friends during warm-weather months, it’s important to practice safe food handling when eating outdoors. Some general guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are below.

Pack and Transport Food Safely
Keep your food safe from the refrigerator or freezer all the way to the picnic table.

  • Keep cold food cold by placing cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
  • Organize cooler contents.Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Keep coolers closed. Once at the picnic site, limit the number of times the cooler is opened as much as you can. This helps to keep the contents cold longer.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from contaminating prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water and dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel before packing them in the cooler. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” do not need to be washed.

The article also offers some quick tips for picnic site preparation:    
Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning — including outdoor settings. Before you begin setting out your picnic feast, make sure hands and surfaces are clean.

  • If you don’t have access to running water, use a water jug, soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
  • Take care to keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.

Safe grilling tips are also a must:

  • Marinate safely. Marinate foods in the refrigerator and never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Do not reuse marinade.
  • Cook immediately after “partial cooking.” If you partially cook food to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
  • Cook food thoroughly. When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready. Always use it to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Keep “ready” food hot. Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals. This keeps it hot but prevents overcooking.
  • Don’t reuse platters or utensils.Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
  • Check for foreign objects in food. If you clean your grill using a bristle brush, check to make sure that no detached bristles have made their way into grilled food.
  • Also make sure to grill your food the safe temperature recommended by the FDA. The safe food temperature chart can be found here.

Serving picnic food: 

Keeping food at proper temperatures whether you are indoors and outside is critical in preventing the growth of foodborne bacteria. According to the FDA, the key is to never let your picnic food remain in the “danger zone” – between 40°F and 140°F – for more than two hours, or one hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90°F.

Instead, the article states to follow these simple rules for keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

Cold food:

  • Once you’ve served it, it should not sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90° F. If it does, discard it.
  • Foods like chicken salad and desserts in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice, or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

Hot food:

  • Wrap hot food well and place it in an insulated container until serving.
  • Just as with cold food – these foods should not sit out for more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90°F. If food is left out longer, throw it away to be safe.

For more information, click here.

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