Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness This Summer

People tend to eat more meals outdoors during the warm summer months. Preparing, storing, and cooking food can be challenging without the conveniences of a kitchen, however. It also increases the risk for foodborne illnesses. Roughly 48 million Americans get sick from eating contaminated food each year. Most foodborne illnesses are short-lived, but they can still be very unpleasant.

Make sure that your picnics at the park, barbecues in the backyard, camping trips, and family cookouts are memorable for the right reasons with these tips to prevent foodborne illness.

Don't let food poisoning spoil your summer picnics, parties, and gatherings. Use these tips to help keep friends and family safe from foodborne illness. Click To Tweet

Keep things separated.

Keeping foods separate from one another is the easiest way to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Store produce and ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Do not reuse platters, cutting boards, or dishes, that have been used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. This includes placing cooked meat on a plate that carried raw meat.
  • Disposable paper plates and bowls may seem wasteful, but they can help avoid contamination and prevent foodborne illness.

Wash hands and utensils often.

It’s easier to keep hands and utensils clean in a kitchen, but it’s still important to prioritize cleanliness when cooking outdoors.

  • Bring separate utensils for each individual dish.
  • Bring a small tub to wash dishes.
  • Carry soap if there’s a source of running water, and use hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes if you can’t wash hands.
  • Make sure that you sanitize surfaces before preparing foods.

Cook foods thoroughly.

Under-cooked foods can harbor harmful germs and bacteria that cause food poisoning and foodborne illnesses. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods reach the correct internal temperature:

  • whole beef, veal, pork, ham, lamb, and fish – 145°F
  • ground meat and egg dishes – 160°F
  • poultry, leftovers, and casseroles – 165°F

Prepare as much as you can in your home kitchen.

You can do most of your food prep in your home kitchen where you have soap, running water, and clean surfaces. Chop vegetables, cut and marinate meats, and do other food preparation at home. Store foods in reusable containers with a tight seal.

Not only does this make cooking outdoors easier, but it also helps prevent foodborne illness.

Keep food indoors whenever possible.

Set your spread out in the kitchen, dining room, or other indoor area when entertaining guests at home. The festivities can be outside, and guests can eat outdoors, but serving foods inside helps keep food from spoiling and reduces exposure to insects and contaminants.

Keep foods chilled.

Don’t leave food out and exposed for extended periods of time. You need to cover and store perishable food soon after meals. Some foods can spoil in as little as 2 hours when left out at room temperature. Foods spoil even faster at higher temperatures. 

The “danger zone” — 140°F to 40°F — is the temperature range where bacteria multiply at a rapid rate. Make sure that you have coolers with ice to safely store food. Perishable dishes, such as those containing dairy and eggs, should not be left out for more than one hour if it’s more than 90°F outside.

Recognize the symptoms of food poisoning.

Most cases of foodborne illness do not require medical treatment. However, food poisoning can cause hospitalization, and even death, in severe cases. Each year, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases in the United States.

Talk to your doctor if you have these symptoms:

  • a fever over 102°F,
  • diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days,
  • vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down,
  • or blood in your stool.

If your doctor’s office is closed, visit a MANA Urgent Care location near you.