Summer is the perfect time for outdoor picnics and late-night barbeques. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled veggies are summer staples. However, it is important to remember that warm weather can increase the risk of turning your fun food plans into a disastrous bacterial growth, leading to food poisoning. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 48 million Americans get food poisoning every year. Follow these tips for food preparation and protection to ensure your summer picnics are memorable for the right reasons!
The heat of the summer is one of the major reasons why there is an uptick in food poisoning cases during these months. Bacteria can grow faster in warm climates, with the fastest growth in temperatures from 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Eating food that has been left out too long will make you sick. Prevent this possibility by keeping your foods cool. For instance, if you are hosting a BBQ, keep your raw meat, poultry, or seafood in a fridge or insulated cooler until you are ready to grill. Put your leftovers in a fridge or cooler as soon as possible. Keeping food out for over an hour or two could spell disaster. If you think your perishable food has been out too long, throw it out. Additionally, if you use a cooler, make sure you layer and replenish ice (when needed) to keep items properly cool.
Before any food preparation/cooking, you should always wash your hands with warm water and soap. You should also wash your hands after handling any raw meat, poultry, seafood. Unwashed or improperly washed hands can contribute to the spread of germs and bacteria. You should also wash/clean kitchen surfaces, grills, and utensils to decrease the chances of food poisoning. Additionally, fresh produce and vegetables, such as lettuce, should be rinsed. Therefore, it is important to have a source of safe drinking water to properly cleanse food, surfaces, and hands.
Cross-contamination is a serious contributor to food poisoning. Keep bacteria from traveling from raw meats or seafood to other areas. If you are packing, wrap and separate raw food in individual bags. This will prevent any juices or marinades to stay away from one another. After cooking food, place on a clean plate and away from uncooked food. It is also important to remember to use clean utensils and to never use the same utensils between cooked and uncooked foods.
You will need to cook your food thoroughly to kill the harmful bacteria. Never partially grill meat to finish later because it allows the bacteria to survive and multiply, eventually reaching a point where the subsequent cooking would no longer destroy the germs. Use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is properly cooked. Sometimes, eyeballing food from the outside is not enough to determine that the food is safe to consume. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following safe internal temperatures:
- Poultry (whole, pieces & ground): 165 °F /74 °C
- Ground meats: 160 °F /71 °C
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts & chops): 145 °F /63 °C
Common Symptoms of Food Poisoning
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Many cases of food poisoning only require rest and hydration. However, it may be necessary to get medical help. DOCS Urgent Care can provide many services to aid if you contract food poisoning. Contact medical help if you find you have any of the following:
- Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than three days
- A high, persistent fever
- Bloody vomit or diarrhea
- Extreme abdominal pain
- Inability to remain hydrated
- Difficulty seeing, speaking, or standing
DOCS Medical Group can provide you with the care you need. Contact us today to set up an appointment or visit our office.