Summer Food Safety
As the temperature rises, so does the risk of foodborne illness. Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for the rapid growth of bacteria. Summer also means more people are cooking outside without easy access to refrigeration and washing facilities. It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illness in Canada every year. Many of these cases could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.
To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, follow these four steps when handling and preparing food.
Step One – Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom, touching pets or changing diapers. Always wash raw fruits and vegetables with clean water. You cannot tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.
Step Two – Separate: Keep raw meats and poultry separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
When you pack a cooler for an outing, wrap uncooked meats and poultry securely, and put them on the bottom to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods. Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat or poultry before using them again for other foods.
Step Three – Cook: Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by properly cooking food.
Traditional visual cues like colour are not a guarantee that food is safe. Don’t guess! Take a digital instant-read food thermometer along to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:
- 71-80 C (160-176 F) for ground meat
- 74-80 C (165-176 F) for leftover food and boned and deboned poultry parts
- 80-85 C (176-180 F) for whole poultry
Step Four – Chill: Keep cold food cold.
Perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at 80 C (176 F). Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating.
The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out.