As the summer heats up in the Northern Hemisphere, backyard barbeques and holiday celebrations become increasingly common. Food and beverages are often at the center of these gatherings. Hosts and attendees need to know how to practice safe food handling to avoid foodborne pathogens.
Each year, the US CDC estimates that one in six Americans will become sickened by contaminated food. The most common foods linked to foodborne illness include:
- Raw or undercooked poultry, meat, shellfish, and eggs
- Unwashed fruits and vegetables
- Raw milk and raw milk products
- Raw flour
Food can become contaminated at any point in the growing, sorting, packaging, shipping, retail, and preparation processes. When selecting foods at the supermarket, check the product recall board (found at most grocers) to be sure that the food you intend to buy is not on the list and will be available.
Food Storage Safety
Consumers can take steps to mitigate contamination risks after purchasing food. Check at home to be sure that no recalled products are in your freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Be sure to store your food properly. Ensure that your refrigerators and freezers are set at an appropriate temperature; 40 F (4 C) for the refrigerator and 0 F (-18 C) for the freezer. Be sure not to store meats above food that will not require cooking to prevent raw meat juices from dripping and contaminating other foods. Perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth. Foods served outdoors should be protected from insects and served as soon as possible. Be sure to put perishable items on ice to inhibit bacterial growth. Meats should be served hot and fresh, following the two-hour rule. Products containing dairy or mayonnaise should be kept very cold. Cleaning utensils for each food selection and tongs or scoops for ice can cut down on pathogen spread by ensuring hands-free serving and by avoiding cross-contamination.
Food Preparation Practices
When preparing foods, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling foods or touching raw meat or eggs. Cleanse all preparation surfaces with safe cleaning solutions or soap and water. Use only sanitized utensils throughout the process and avoid cross-contamination by washing these utensils, cutting boards, and food preparation surfaces when cooking. Keep perishable foods refrigerated or on ice until you need them.
Use these guidelines for cooking meats thoroughly:
- Ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C) and ground poultry to 165 F (74 C)
- Beef, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of at least 145 F (63 C)
- Poultry to at least 165 F (74 C)
- Pork and ham to 145 F (63 C)
- Eggs until the yolk and whites are firm
- Egg dishes such as quiche and souffles to 160 F (71 C)
- Mixed dishes and leftovers to 165 F (74 C)
- Fish until the meat turns opaque and flakes easily or shells open during cooking
Homemade ice cream is popular at backyard events. Clean your ice cream maker thoroughly with soap and hot water. Make sure that ingredients used are fresh and that you are using only pasteurized milk or cream. Wash other ingredients such as fruit before adding to the mixture. If you stir the mixture during the churning or blending process, use a utensil that has been thoroughly cleaned.
Following these simple and easy safety tips for get-togethers involving food, especially in the warm summer months, will help prevent food poisoning and may lead to enjoyable memories.
For more information on keeping foods safe, click here.
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