Eating outdoors in the summer is something to look forward to for family reunions, barbecues, picnics and dinners al fresco on the patio. But food-borne bacteria, which thrive in hot weather, can put a damper on outdoor dining. Follow a few simple rules of food handling and you will enjoy delicious burgers and potato salad rather than a bellyache.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises basic sanitary food handling practices such as washing your hands, cooking meat and poultry thoroughly, and avoiding cross-contamination of utensils and platters. When transporting food from the refrigerator to the picnic table, it is critical to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
- Cold perishable food should be kept in a cooler at 40 degrees F. with ice or frozen gel packs until serving time.
- Clean fruits and vegetables with running water and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel before packing them in the cooler.
- Foods like chicken salads or desserts in individual serving dishes should be placed on ice in a shallow container.
- After everyone has been served, do not keep food out for more than two hours — and make that only one hour if the temperature exceeds 90 degrees F.
- Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees F. or above.
- Store hot foods in an insulated container until serving.
- As with cold foods, hot food items should not sit out for more than two hours, or one hour when the temperature is over 90 degrees F. If food has been left out longer, throw it away to be safe.