If you’re planning a picnic or barbeque this summer, it’s important to understand how to stay safe when it comes to food. Studies show that at least one in six people gets sick from some kind of food-related illness every year, and food being left out in the heat definitely doesn’t help.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are at least 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths a year due to foodborne illnesses in the United States alone.
The agency says: “USDA reminds summer travelers not to let your outdoor meal become a feast for bacteria. Bacteria grow faster during the summer months because it’s warmer and more humid.” It adds that, although not all bacteria in food are harmful, some types can cause severe illness so it’s essential to store and handle food properly to avoid illnesses.
The agency’s advice is that anyone planning a party with food this summer should take note of the following advice:
- Remember that foods stored at temperatures between 40 F and 140 F can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria so you only have a limited time to eat safely.
- Any perishable foods should be refrigerated as soon as possible, and ideally within an hour if it’s a hot day. You can store food with an ice pack to keep it cool during the day.
- Alternatively, you can keep food safe by keeping it hot for longer. For example, at a barbeque, you can keep food on a hot grill at over 140 degrees so it stays safe.
- Store any leftovers in small containers and keep them in a cooler below 40 degrees.
- If you’re going on a picnic, pack any perishable foods in a separate container for beverages, as the beverage cooler tends to be opened more frequently.
- If you use a cooler, fill it with as much ice as possible and keep it in the shade.
- You can pack items when they are frozen to keep the temperature lower.