At some point throughout the summer, you may spend time outside with family and friends at a picnic or backyard barbecue. If you aren’t careful about handling foods and beverages during these cookouts, you’re putting yourself and others at risk for potential food-related illnesses.
Bacteria multiply especially fast in the summer heat, making outdoor cookouts prime breeding grounds for E. coli and salmonella. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
Prevent food poisoning at picnics and barbecues with these simple tips:
- Clean. Wash cooking equipment, dishes and utensils between uses. Be sure to clean the grill’s surface after each use and wash cutting boards after preparing raw meat. Germs can survive in many places, so washing your hands and surfaces is critical.
- Separate. Use one cooler for drinks and one for food. It’s also important to separate raw foods (e.g., poultry, seafood and eggs) from those ready to eat. Lastly, never eat anything left out of a refrigerator or cooler for more than two hours—or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook. Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The best way to know if food is cooked properly is by using a meat thermometer. For example, burgers and hot dogs should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chill. Refrigerate food promptly since bacteria can rapidly multiply if left at room temperature. The “danger zone” for bacteria growth is 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember that as summer temperatures rise, so does your risk for food-related illness. If you have a mild case, it’s important to stay hydrated. More serious food poisoning cases, which often include a fever, severe abdominal pain and dehydration symptoms, require medical attention.