Food safety hints offered for summer events and warm temperatures

Special to the News
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Spring, summer or fall many families and friends gather together and celebrate special events or just enjoy good food. Outdoor gatherings are becoming more common at local parks. And they are the perfect way to enjoy good weather, good company and good food throughout the warmer seasons. One run-in with food poisoning, though, can ruin these fun events.

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 get together.

During outdoor get-togethers, 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. People then go back and snack on food that has been sitting out for hours. Bacteria grow best at temperatures from 70 to 125 degrees and food left out in these temperature ranges allows rapid bacterial growth.

Remember these four steps to keeping food safe during your events: 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 foodborne 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. Cook all raw ground meats 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 or colder. The best way to check is with a food thermometer. Food should not be sitting out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour when 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 hot foods stay at 135 degrees or more, and cold foods should stay cold at 41 degrees or below.

If there isn’t a way to check the temperature, food should not be left longer than two hours off ice or out of refrigeration due to bacterial growth.

For questions about this or any topic related to nutrition food safety, home or family please contact Holly Jay, Family and Consumer Science Agent, MSU Extension BHC at 406-665-9770 or stop by 317 N. Custer Ave. in Hardin.

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