Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and many Americans will celebrate with cookouts, camping, road trips and other activities that involve food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding families to take extra care not to let foodborne bacteria, which grows more quickly in hot weather, ruin the fun.
“This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, I encourage families to get outside and enjoy our natural resources, national parks and forests, and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home. USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer and take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions.”
Last month, USDA 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. The app provides information on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. This will help keep products fresh longer than if they were stored improperly, which can happen more often during hot summer days. The application is available for free on Android and Apple devices.
Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.
Bringing food to a picnic or cookout:
- Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
- Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables, and perishable dairy products.
- A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
- Avoid repeatedly opening the cooler so that your food stays colder longer.
Cooking on the grill:
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items such as vegetables or bread.
- Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are thoroughly cooked to their safe minimum internal temperatures:
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 degrees F with a 3-minute rest time
- Ground meats: 160 degrees F
- Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165 degrees F
- Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
Serving food outdoors:
- Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 degrees F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
- Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 degrees F or warmer.
- Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where it could overcook.