As you head to outdoor parties this summer, food safety may not be uppermost in your mind. That’s understandable. But keep a few simple “food poisoning do’s and don’ts” in the back of your mind. You’ll be glad that you did.
This post will not be gross. I promise no graphic descriptions of food poisoning symptoms and no horror stories of what happens to food poisoning victims. Suffice it to say, you don’t want to give anyone food poisoning or get a case of it yourself.
Still, in spite of your precautions, if you or someone else gets sick and you think it’s from food, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Food poisoning usually causes symptoms in a matter of hours after eating the contaminated food. Although most people recover with rest and fluids and without longterm complications, it is important to check with a health care provider if the individual is immune compromised, has fever or other serious symptoms, or if the symptoms do not resolve in a few days. [I’m not giving medical advice here. When in doubt, consult a medical professional!]
Keeping Food Safe at Summertime Parties
Food Poisoning Do’s and Don’ts
- Separate raw and ready-to-eat food – If you’re making burgers or other meat, poultry or fish, keep that raw food separate from food already cooked or that does not require cooking. Wash your hands after touching the raw meat, poultry or fish. Cross-contamination is as bad as it sounds.
- Wash fruits and vegetables – No soap, just water. Even melons, avocados, and other foods with rinds or skin you will not eat. If you cut through the rind or skin, it should be washed so that any bacteria on the outside does not move inside on the knife.
- Time and temperature matter when serving food – Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Minimize the number of times you open a cooler. (Opening lets out cool air and brings in the hot, outside air.) It’s better to keep refilling a smaller bowl over the course of a long party, than to leave a big bowl of prepared food out in the heat. Similarly, when cooking on a barbecue, grill in batches, so food is hot when you serve it and doesn’t sit around, cooling down, on the serving platter. Once food has been put out, it should be served within 2 hours.
- Don’t serve marinade as sauce (unless it’s been cooked) – Marinade for meat, poultry or fish has to be fully cooked on that item or separately in a small pot.
- Don’t serve or taste anything that you’re the least bit suspicious of – When in doubt, throw it out!
- Don’t save leftovers that sat unrefrigerated for over 2 hours – At the end of a wonderful party, as you clean up, if food has been out for 2 hours, throw it out. Refrigerating it after 2 hours won’t kill bacteria. No matter how delicious it looks and even though it seems wasteful, it needs to go. Whether it’s a lemon meringue pie, rice salad, or grilled chicken, better to be safe than sorry.
For more specific suggestions, check out this FDA resource on eating outdoors.
I’m heading out to several barbecues and pot lucks this weekend. Hope you have fun plans, too. Have a Happy Fourth!