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Keeping Food Safe in Summer

Category: Patient Stories
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A Summer Picnic On A Lawn Summer is the time for picnics, barbeques and outdoor fun with family and friends. But the beautiful, warm weather is what makes bacteria thrive and cause foodborne illness if you don’t handle your food with care. “Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold,” says Karen Johnson, RD, LD, clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s. “Food shouldn’t be out more than two hours, and if it’s over 90 degrees F, one hour is the limit.” Karen recommends keeping food hot with a heated steam table or chafing dish, and stirring often to ensure all of the food stays at the right temperature.

“Fight Bac” with Four Simple Steps

The Partnership for Food Safety Education is a nonprofit partnership with a mission: to end illness and death from foodborne infections in the United States. Their “Fight Bac!” campaign helps families learn the four steps to keeping food safe:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw foods.
  • Cook: Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly. Always defrost and marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Use this handy Cold Storage Chart to find out how long food is good when it’s refrigerated or frozen.

“We can’t emphasize washing enough,” says Karen. “Wash your hands often, especially if you are going between foods, such as from raw meat to cooked food. And wash all of your produce, even ones with skin like bananas, cucumber and cantaloupe. Sturdier fruits and vegetables can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush and water; you don’t need to use soap, as this will leave residue on the food.” The rinds of some foods can contain bacteria, so by cutting through unwashed skin on vegetables and fruit, the knife could contaminate the food.

Keeping Bag Lunches Safe

Children often need a bag lunch for summer day trips. If your child’s lunch includes perishables such as lunch meat or pasta salads, you’ll need to include at least two cold sources, one on the bottom and one on the top, to keep the food chilled. Or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box or frozen bottle of water.