The 4th of July is this week… this summer is flying by so fast! I don’t know about you, but I am getting excited for some delicious barbecue, colorful fireworks and making more great memories with family and friends. There’s no better way to spend America’s birthday in my opinion!
As I start my party preparations, I wanted to take the time to post about food safety in the summer. Did you know that the summer months tend to see a large increase in incidents of food poisoning because the warm temperatures cause bacteria to multiply faster? According to new research just released by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), nearly two-thirds of Americans are not using a food thermometer regularly to check the temperature of meat and poultry. The last thing any host wants is for their friends and family to get sick from the food you served them! So I am taking all proper precautions and am following the USDA and the Ad Council’s 4 Steps to Food Safety:
- Clean: Make sure you clean all utensils, hands, and surfaces with soapy water before, during and after food prep. This may seem like a no brainer, but when you get distracted with kids running around, people in and out of the kitchen and playing hostess to your guests, you can easily forget what’s clean and dirty. If you’re going camping and won’t have a source for clean water, bring water for washing hands and food preparation surfaces. Moist towelettes and disposable washcloths are other good options.
- Separate: Don’t put meat items back on the same plate you used for the raw meat! Seriously, how many people do this without even thinking?! The easiest way to avoid this mistake is to use one plate for raw meat and have another for the cooked food when it comes off the grill. Another culprit? Cutting boards. Make sure you have one exclusively for raw meat and another for fresh veggies and fruit. If you’re packing a cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely to keep their juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food.
- Cook: Cook all meat and poultry to safe temperatures: ground beef should be cooked to 160 °F, all poultry should be cooked to 165 °F and steaks should be cooked to 145 °F. Be sure to bring a food thermometer to your outing and check the temperature of the meat or poultry by inserting it into the thickest portion. Once food is cooked or reheated, keep it hot, at or above 140 °F and never let food sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Remember, just because it’s brown on the outside doesn’t mean its completely cooked.
- Chill: Keeping cold food cold in the summer is crucial. Both raw and cooked meat, poultry and cold foods need to be kept cold, 40 °F or below, –both in the refrigerator and on the serving table (remember, they can’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours, one hour for temperatures 90°F and above). Cold perishables like luncheon meats or potato salad should be kept on ice or in an insulated cooler packed with ice or ice packs.
When all your guests have eaten, chill leftovers promptly in shallow containers and discard any food that’s been left out for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature is 90°F and above).
If you have questions about preventing food poisoning and how to keep your family safe this 4th of July and all summer, check out the free resources on FoodSafety.gov. The online database, Ask Karen, has answers to nearly 1,500 questions related to foodborne illness. You can also call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Both are available in English and Spanish.
Martie Duncan of Food Network Star Season 8 has created a video on Food Safety and Party Ideas for a happy and healthy 4th of July, check it out here!