Food Safety Matters

by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting

As we are engaged in more outdoor activities, historically the incidence of foodborne illnesses increases during the summer.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a foodborne illness can be fatal, especially among children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

There are certain precautions we can take to protect ourselves and our families. These begin when purchasing the foods, and then properly storing them until consumption.

How to detect, avoid spoiled foods

Fresh poultry at risk when:

  • Stored raw in the refrigerator for longer than 1-2 days (3-4 days for cooked poultry).
  • Left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, either before or after cooking.

Fresh meat at risk when:

  • Stored raw in the refrigerator for longer than 3-5 days (1-2 days for hamburger).
  • Discolored, smelling, slimy.
  • Left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, either before or after cooking.

Fresh fish at risk when:

  • Stored for longer than 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
  • Dried at edges, smelly.
  • Left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, either before or after cooking.

Milk, cream, egg products at risk when:

  • Left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
  • Stored in the refrigerator longer than 5-7 days.

Frozen meats, poultry, fish, casseroles at risk when:

  • Thawed at room temperature.
  • Allowed to thaw and be refrozen.
  • Eaten without thorough cooking.

Canned foods at risk when:

  • Liquid spurts out when can is opened.
  • Can is corroded, rusty or leaky, swollen on top or bottom, dented on side seams.
  • Contents have off-odors, a foamy or mushy texture.
  • Stored at temperatures above 100° F or allowed to freeze and thaw.

Fresh fruits, vegetables at risk when:

  • Unwashed, moldy.

Cereal products, flour at risk when:

  • Moldy, infested with insects.

Ultimately, the final steps include cooking the foods to proper temperatures, and holding hot foods hot (at 135° F or higher) and cold foods cold (below 41° F) while serving these foods outdoors.

Now that you have done your due diligence, enjoy your safe picnic, barbecue or family reunion!