The number of foodborne illnesses increases during the summer. Here's why: Bacteria love the hot, humid days of summer, and grow faster than at any other time of the year. When the temperature is above 90 F, the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour. At the same time temperatures rise, we're more likely to leave food unrefrigerated for longer time periods. Food sits out at picnics, barbecues and during travel. Washing facilities and thermostat-controlled cooking appliances often are not available at picnic sites. People may leave their food thermometer in their kitchen when cooking outdoors.
Beat bacteria this summer with these five tips for safe foods.
2. No Poking Allowed - Poking and stabbing meat with a fork or knife when placing or turning meat on the grill can cause a loss of juices that keep meat moist and tender. Piercing meat also can affect food safety. Bacteria normally are found only on the external surface of larger cuts of meat like beefsteaks. However, if a steak is poked with a fork or knife, these bacteria can be pushed into the steak.Use long-handled tongs to handle meat on the grill. Use a SEPARATE set of tongs for removing COOKED meat, poultry and seafood from the grill.
3. Safe at the Plate- Avoid cross-contamination. Place cooked meat, poultry and seafood on a clean plate, rather than the plate on which it was carried to the grill.
4. What's Hot, What's Not! -Rather than worry about keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, limit the number of perishable foods on your menu, especially if you'll be at a picnic site for several hours. For example, serve: potato chips instead of potato salad; washed whole fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, plums, peaches, etc.) instead of a cut-up fruit salad; cookies or brownies instead of a perishable cream-filled pie.
5. Get a Handle on Handwashing-Unwashed hands is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Whenever possible, wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before handling food. When eating away from home, pack disposable towelettes if no handwashing facilities are available. Also bring along bottle water and hand sanitizers.
Submitted by Sharon Haynes, Regional Extension Agent - Human Nutrition, Diet & Health, firstname.lastname@example.org,(256) 975-0089
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