By Ilze Kiselis, MNS, RD, LDN
For most of us, Memorial Day represents the start of the summer season which means fun family getaways, barbecues and picnics.
Whether picnicking at the beach or eating out on the porch during this time of year, it’s important to take the right precautions for food handling, preparation and cooking — so you can avoid dangerous food-borne illnesses like Salmonella and E. coli.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year 48 million (or roughly one out of six) Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that about two to three percent of all food poisoning cases lead to secondary long-term illnesses such as arthritis, kidney failure and meningitis. This is why proper food safety is so important.
No matter what time of year it is, anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food. To lower your chances of food poisoning, remember these four simple steps on food safety from the CDC:
Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and refrigerate foods promptly. Germs can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour. Check the FoodKeeper webpage or app to learn the best way to store foods and beverages, how to keep them fresh, and when to throw them away.
Don’t cross-contaminate. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods – unless you keep them separate.
Cook to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:
- 145°F for whole beef, veal, and lamb, and fresh pork and ham (allowing the meat to cool for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), and for fin fish.
- 160°F for ground beef, veal, pork and lamb, and for egg dishes.
- 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey, and stuffing, leftovers and casseroles.
It takes just a little effort to follow proper precautions and make sure that the food you and your family eat this summer will not only be delicious but safe too.