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Summer health hazards: Foodborne illness
Backyard barbecues and picnics are two of the many delicious staples of summertime cooking and eating around Long Island (and across the country for that matter). Whether you eat meat or stick to strictly veggies, these activities leave endless options to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.
But what potential hazards do we expose ourselves (and guests) to by moving our food centered parties outside? For one: foodborne illnesses.
To find out more about these illnesses, and how to prevent them, the Daily Apple recently discussed the subject via email to Darlene Foote at the Centers for Disease Control and got a few answers.
Are there increased risks in taking food outside (and leaving it there for any period of time)?
Germs can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.)
What are the potential hazards of not cooking/storing foods at the correct temperatures?
Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a common, costly—yet preventable— public health problem. Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Because foodborne illnesses increase during the summer months, it is even more important to follow food safety steps. Many foodborne illnesses are caused by consuming foods or beverages contaminated with germs. Sometimes, the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at these [outside] events.
What are the proper temperatures at which to cook common BBQ foods like chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.?
Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. Also, put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the raw meat, to avoid cross-contamination.
How long can foods sit out before they should really be discarded?
Whether you're cooking out in the backyard or on a picnic, always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. When you're finished eating, refrigerate leftovers promptly.
- Refrigerate the foods that tend to spoil more quickly (like fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and meats) within two hours. Warm foods will chill faster if they are divided into several clean, shallow containers.
- Thaw or marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter or in the kitchen sink.
- Know when to throw food out.
Additional information on safe food handling during the summer months can be found by visiting the CDC’s website.
Do you have any tips for food handling during the summer months? Share them in the comments field below.