By Paula Cerqueira, Dietetic Intern
From barbecues to picnics at the beach, food is a big part of celebrating the season. To ensure both pleasurable and safe eating experiences throughout the summer, it’s important to follow food safety guidelines that help prevent food borne illness. The following tips should help serve as some basic strategies:
- Purchase last, refrigerate first – When purchasing groceries, buy meat, fish and poultry last and drive straight home to refrigerate or freeze so they’ll stay in the safe temperature range.
- Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave – Use the refrigerator to thaw overnight or use the microwave to defrost if you’re in a rush. Never thaw (or marinate) at room temperature.
- Make good use of your cooler – When transporting food, use an insulated cooler and ice/ice packs to keep food below 41°F to minimize bacterial growth. Pack raw foods that you intend to cook at your destination in a separate cooler from food that is ready-to-eat.
- Cold food should be kept cold – Food should only be taken out of the refrigerator when it’s ready to be immediately cooked or eaten.
- Clean hands, separate tools – Before handling food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Prevent cross-contamination by using different plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat, poultry and fish.
- Cook to safe temperatures – Raw meat, poultry, and fish may contain bacteria that can lead to illness if not cooked thoroughly. Be sure to cook hamburgers, poultry, and hot dogs to an internal temperature of 165°F. Fish, beef, pork, lamb, and veal (whole pieces, not ground) are safe at 145°F. Always use a meat thermometer and measure temperature in the middle of the thickest part of the food.
- Once hot, keep it hot – After cooking, keep food hot (>140°F) until served. Store any leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within 2 hours (1 hour if it’s over > 90°F outside).
For more information regarding food safety, visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website.
(Reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE, Nutritionist at MGH Revere)