August is right around the corner, and if you’re planning a cookout or picnic for the dog days of summer, here are some tips from the Partnership for Food Safety to help keep you and your family and friends from getting sick.
1. Wash Your Hands
Always wash your hands before and after handling food. Proper hand-washing, as described in the Food Code, involves running warm water and using soap on your hands for at least 20 seconds. If running water isn’t available, you can use hand sanitizer.
2. Follow the Two-Hour Rule
The bacteria in perishable foods can multiply rapidly if they sit out for too long. Food shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours. If the day is particularly hot (higher than 90 degree F), it should only be out of refrigeration for one hour.
If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, make sure you have plenty of ice — not just to keep drinks cool but to keep food safe. Don’t keep leftovers unless your cooler has enough ice left to store them in. Otherwise, throw the food out.
4. No Coolers in the Trunk
If you’re transporting food somewhere, keep coolers filled with food in the air-conditioned part of your car instead of in the hot trunk.
Keep wrapped raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods, fruits and vegetables. For example, don’t slice up the watermelon on the same cutting board that just held pre-cooked burgers. You don’t want any pathogens that might be hanging out on the meat to contaminate ready-to-eat foods.
6. Use a Food Thermometer
When cooking that meat and poultry, use a food thermometer. Many people use color, firmness, clear juices or shrinkage to indicate doneness, but visual cues can’t tell you for sure whether the minimum internal temperatures needed to kill pathogens have been reached. If you don’t own a food thermometer yet, many food safety experts recommend a digital one over a dial.
The target temperatures to remember are 165 degrees F for poultry, casseroles and leftovers. Ground meats and egg dishes need to be cooked to at least 160 degrees F. Fresh beef, pork, veal, lamb and ham should reach 145 degrees F and then rest for at least three minutes. Fish should also be cooked to 145 degrees F.
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