Summer: Key Time for Ensuring Food Safety

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

Summer is here and with it comes the joy of spending more time outdoors with family and friends.

Since most gatherings involve food, our safety becomes a concern during the summer in regards to outdoor activities.

On an annual basis, roughly one in six Americans is impacted by foodborne illnesses. The estimate is that close to 128,000 individuals end up in the hospital with about 3,000 of them eventually dying from the complications of a foodborne illness.

Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and mold present in our food and water.

All of us are at risk of developing a foodborne illness, but certain individuals are known to be at a higher risk because of potential complications resulting from exposure that could even turn out to be deadly.

Who’s at high risk?

  • Pregnant women
  • Infants
  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Immune-compromised individuals

There are several ways to protect you and your family from foodborne illnesses, and prevention is always the best approach!

1. Clean fresh fruits and vegetables prior to preparation to remove any dirt, especially if they will be eaten raw.

2. Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards that have come in contact with raw meat or poultry before preparing other foods. This reduces the possibility of cross contamination.

3. Cook meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Ground beef should reach an internal temperature of 160°F, and eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm. Using a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures is the most accurate way to make sure these foods are fully cooked.

4. Keep foods that remain in the time-temperature danger zone (between 41° F and 135° F) for no more than four hours.

5. Keep food on ice to extend its holding time by keeping potato or macaroni salad and raw burgers in the cooler until ready to cook or serve.

6. Leftovers should be tossed after one hour when the temperature is 90° F or above.

7. Refrigerate any leftovers promptly to avoid contamination.

8. Stop a sick person with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat with fever from preparing food, and they should at least avoid handling food until symptoms have resolved for at least 24 hours.