Summer is a time for cookouts, picnics, and fun by the pool. Usually, all of these events involve food. As the temperature rises, it’s important to be mindful of the increase in risk of foodborne illnesses. It’s easy to forget how long food has been sitting out when you’re enjoying the cool water or catching up with friends. Below are some tips to keep the guess work out of it and keep you healthy this summer.
Welcome to the Danger Zone
Food left out at temperatures between 40-140 degrees fahrenheit for more than two hours should be thrown away. This is the prime temperature range for bacteria to thrive. If food is meant to be hot, it needs to be kept warmer than 140 degrees if not consumed in less than two hours. If food is meant to be cold, it needs to be chilled at a temperature lower than 40 degrees if out for more than two hours or if leftovers are to be salvaged.
Ice, Ice Baby
If you plan on transporting food to a destination, purchasing a reliable cooler is one of the first steps to stay safe. The cooler should fasten tightly, keeping its contents cold inside. Add ice or ice packs to keep food at the appropriate temperature inside. Clean the inside of the cooler after every use, as spills or stray food that stick to the sides can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Use special care with items that contain ingredients that spoil easily, such as mayonnaise and eggs. Keep these items closest to the ice in your cooler, and do not leave them out longer than necessary.
Good old-fashioned soap and water is the gold standard for germ eradication, but if there is not a bathroom on the premises, bring anti-bacterial handwipes and/or hand sanitizer. If you are sharing the same bag of chips or container of cookies, you don’t want to be exchanging germs, too.
Judge a Fruit by its Cover
If you plan to serve watermelon, avocado, or anything else with a peel/skin, remember to wash it thoroughly before you pack it. One of the easiest ways to spread germs is by dragging a knife through a piece of fruit with a dirty peel. All those germs from the skin will end up on the flesh of the fruit and in your mouth.
Perish the Thought
If you plan to travel far or have no way to keep food climate controlled, consider packing things that are non-perishable. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, grapes, granola bars, trail mix, and bananas are all safe choices.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
If you are ever unsure about how long food has been sitting out in the sun, dispose of it. It’s not worth the risk of spending the rest of your weekend sick.