Summer Food Safety
Warm weather is a favorite time for picnics and cookouts.
However, it is also the best time for bacteria and other
micro-organisms to grow and contaminate food.
Although the United State's food supply is among the safest
in the world, more than 75 million cases of food-borne
illnesses are reported each year. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration is responsible for keeping food safe, but there
also are many things each cook can do to prevent food-borne
Lorie Ann Phillips, a registered dietitian at Durham
Regional Hospital, part of the Duke University Health System,
says that to keep food safe, everyone must consider shopping,
storage, handling, preparation and food transportation.
Food safety begins with shopping. Phillips recommends buying
frozen foods last, just before heading for the checkout
counter. She says it is also important to always check
expiration dates on packaging.
As for storing food, refrigerate or freeze perishables
immediately after arriving home from the supermarket, and keep
foods well away from household cleaning products.
In the kitchen, the top priority is keeping everything
clean, including food containers, cutting boards and utensils.
Avoid cross-contamination by washing kitchen utensils after
cutting meat, and refrain from using the same platters for raw
and cooked meat and poultry.
During warm weather, Phillips cautions people to be
particularly careful with foods made with raw eggs or partially
cooked eggs or mayonnaise.
"This includes potato salad, chicken or tuna salads and
macaroni salads," she says. "You want to pay special attention
to these kinds of dishes. Keep them in the cooler as much as
possible because of the risk of salmonella."
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes nausea, vomiting,
abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headache.
Phillips adds that it is important to cook meat and poultry
thoroughly and to keep meats hot until served.
"It's good to check with a meat thermometer when you're
cooking, Phillips says. "Most meat should be 160 degrees. If
you're cooking poultry, for example, a breast, you want it to
be 170 degrees internal temperature."
Finally, discard any leftovers from a cookout left outdoors
for more than an hour.