Avoid unwanted guests at gatherings

By: 
Holly Jay / MSU Extension Agent
Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer is officially here, the Fourth of July is just a few days away and most families celebrate with good food, friends and even a few fireworks. Picnics are the perfect way to enjoy good weather, company and food not only during July 4 but throughout the summer. One run-in with food poisoning, though, can ruin your summer fun.

Most people love a picnic and the food that goes with it. Grilled chicken, hamburgers, deviled eggs and potato salad are all picnic favorites, but with picnic food comes an increase in food-borne illness. Remember to clean, separate, cook and chill your foods while at your summertime get together.

During summertime gettogethers, people may become less careful with food. People are enjoying each other’s company at their family reunion or picnic, and they forget about the time food has been sitting out. They may go back and snack on that food sitting out for hours with bacteria growing on it and this could cause a food-borne illness.

Remember these four steps to keeping food safe during your summertime get-togethers: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

CLEAN: Keep your foods clean, wash fresh fruits and vegetables, and store them away from uncooked meats and other uncooked foods. Keep utensils used to grill food separate from serving utensils.

Another reason food-borne illness seems to increase this time of year is because hand-washing facilities may not be as plentiful or people don’t wash their hands as

often as needed when enjoying the great outdoors. It’s recommended that you carry moist towelettes or instant hand sanitizer to avoid spreading dirt and germs from your hands to your food if hand-washing facilities are not available.

SEPARATE: Do not use the same platter or utensils for uncooked and cooked foods. Pack hamburgers in plastic bags that can be tossed after placing on the grill to avoid cross contamination with ready-to-eat foods. Prepare as much food ahead of time and at home as possible. Avoid storing or transporting uncooked foods and ready to eat foods in the same cooler if possible.

COOK: Cook foods to their respective internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb, veal, chops and roasts to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For all raw ground meats, cook to 155 degrees. All poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

CHILL: Cold foods, such as deviled eggs, need to be kept cold at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. The best way to check is with a food thermometer. Food should not be sitting out for more than two hours, or even one hour, with temperatures over 90 degrees. Keep items cold with ice or a cooler, and keep hot foods hot with some type of food warmer or on a warm grill to the side of the hot coals to prevent over-cooking. Check the temperature with a thermometer to assure it is within the safe ranges. Keep hot foods hot at 135 degrees or above and cold foods cold at 41 or below.

If there isn’t a way to check the temperature, food should not be left out longer than two hours off ice or out of refrigeration. Remember, bacteria grow at temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees and grow even faster at temperatures of 70-125.

If you have questions about this or any topic related to nutrition food safety, home or family contact Holly Jay, Family and Consumer Science Agent, Montana State University Extension in Big Horn County at (406) 665-9770 or stop by 317 N. Custer Ave. in Hardin.

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