The risk of contracting a foodborne illness increases during summer, when temperatures are warmer and more people are barbecuing, camping and having picnics.
The risk of foodborne illnesses increases during the summer for two reasons: First, summer weather is often hot and the types of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 multiply quickly in warm, moist conditions. The temperature danger zone for the rapid growth of bacteria is from 4 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
Second, summer brings an increase in outdoor activities. You don’t always have easy access to refrigeration or washing facilities when cooking or eating outside or while on camping trips.
Minimize your risk
It is always important to use safe practices when handling or preparing food. To minimize the risk of food poisoning, follow some of the food safety guidelines outlined below.
Wash your hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after handling raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom or touching pets.
- When camping or going on a picnic, find out if there will be a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning, or pack disposable wipes and/or sanitizing lotions and paper towels.
- Take clean plastic bags or containers to store leftover food.
Always wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water. You cannot tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.
Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
*When you pack a cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats and poultry securely and put them on the bottom to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
*Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat or poultry before using them again for cooked foods.
Ensure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking food until it reaches the proper temperature.
- Don’t guess. Use a digital instant-read food thermometer to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. The safe temperatures for cooked foods are:
- 71 degrees Celsius for ground beef
- 74 degrees Celsius for leftover food
- 85 degrees Celsius for whole poultry
- If you have to check more than once, clean the thermometer before using it again.
- Eat cooked food while it is still hot. Remember, bacteria can grow when food is allowed to cool down slowly.
Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk for foodborne illnesses.
- Perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken and potato or pasta salads, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep it at four degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) or below.
- Refrigerate or freeze food the day before you pack it for a trip.
- When packing a cooler, put the meat or poultry on the bottom and then pack food in reverse order, so foods on top will be the ones you expect to use first.
- Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the vehicle and place it in shade or shelter, away from direct sunlight. Keep the cooler closed as much as possible.
- Consider using one cooler for beverages and another for perishable foods, since the beverage cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. *Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating. *Discard all perishable foods once the ice or freezer packs in your cooler have melted. The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out.
For more information on food safety, contact your Environmental Health Officer below or visit the following website:
- Be Food Safe(link is external) (Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education)