Summer brings warmer weather and increased risk of food poisoning. We all know about mayonnaise being a petri dish for germs in hot weather, but as the heat is making its way into our area – what are some things that you need to know to keep your family and friends protected?
The first rule of thumb is to stay out of the danger zone: 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep cold foods cold (less than 40 degrees) and hot foods hot (greater than 140 degrees). During parties, barbeques, picnics, camping, and days at the beach – staying within these guidelines is essential for preventing foodborne illnesses.
According to the website www.foodsafety.gov – if you leave out food in temperatures of more than 90 degrees for an hour or more – throw it away – do not put it back in the refrigerator. Ice packs and coolers are great for keeping cold foods cold. Sterno and chafing dishes can easily keep your hot foods hot. If you don’t have access to either, consume it right away or put it away.
Use serving utensils and mini picks to encourage people from using their hands to touch everything. Kabobs are a great way for serving meat, poultry, fish, veggies and even fruits. I love the scoops chips for serving dips and salsas to prevent the scene from the Seinfeld episode of “double dipping”. Get creative and scoop out cucumbers, small tomatoes and other veggies to create mini cups for serving other items.
Try to avoid using cream sauces during the hot weather… use oil, vinegar or broth based marinades. There are many great pasta, potato salad and coleslaw recipes that can be made mayo-free. Dairy products like butter, cheese and yogurts can go bad rather quickly in hot temperatures, so minimize their time outside of refrigeration.
If you have limited access to running water and soap, make sure you have plenty of moist towelettes for hand cleaning. Keep food preparation and cooking areas clean and avoid cross contamination. The biggest barbeque offender is using the same plate for raw and cooked meat, fish, or poultry.
Guests running late? Wait to put your food out until people arrive. When it doubt, throw it out… I hate wasting food – but less than I despise being sick from food! Also note that for people who are immune compromised or those who take acid reducers (like Prilosec) are at increased risk for falling ill to bacteria in food that would otherwise not impact others.
Most importantly – have fun! Enjoy all the local fruits and veggies that are grown right here in the Garden State!