By Chris Gonterman, Environmental Public Health Supervisor at Springfield-Greene County Health
As the warm days and clear skies of summer continue, people are eager to embrace outdoor activities, including BBQs, parties, picnics and other celebrations. While these events are all about fun and delicious food, they can also pose risks to our health if proper food safety measures are not followed. Foodborne illnesses are more common during the summer months due to the warm weather, which creates favorable conditions for bacterial growth. Therefore, food safety is essential. We want to share some tips to ensure that your summer gatherings are enjoyable, safe, and free from the threat of foodborne illnesses.
Cleanliness Is Key
Before you dive into the summer festivities, always start with the basics — cleanliness. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Make sure all cooking utensils, cutting boards, and surfaces are clean and sanitized. This simple step can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses.
Marinating meat is a popular practice during BBQs, but it’s crucial to do it safely. Always marinate meat in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce, reserve a separate portion and avoid reusing the marinade that’s been in contact with raw meat.
Separate Raw and Cooked Foods
Cross-contamination is a leading cause of foodborne illnesses. Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods to avoid any potential contamination. Use different cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw and cooked items. Remember, never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat unless it has been thoroughly washed.
When it comes to grilling, it’s essential to cook meat, poultry, and seafood to a safe internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. Invest in a food thermometer and use it to ensure your food reaches the recommended temperature. For instance, chicken should reach 165°F (74°C), hamburgers should be cooked to 155°F (68°C), and steaks and fish should reach 145°F (63°C).
Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold
During outdoor celebrations or picnics, make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Perishable items like meats, salads, and dairy-based dishes should be stored in coolers with ice packs or at a temperature below 40°F (4°C) to prevent bacterial growth. When serving hot dishes, use chafing dishes or warming trays to maintain a safe temperature of at least 135°F (57°C).
Safe Leftovers Handling:
After the delightful BBQ or fair visit, you may have some leftovers. It’s essential to handle them with care. Discard any perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for without proper hot or cold holding for any period of time, but especially after four hours, needs to be discarded. Divide leftovers into small portions and store them in shallow containers to cool them quickly before refrigeration.
As we indulge in the joy of summer, let’s not forget the importance of food safety. By following these simple tips, we can ensure that our summer gatherings are not only enjoyable but also safe from the threat of foodborne illnesses. Let’s make this summer season a memorable one, filled with delicious food and cherished moments with friends and family, all while prioritizing our health and wellbeing.
Chris Gonterman joined Springfield-Greene County Health in 2016 as a Selter Assistant before moving to the Environmental Health program in 2018. After nearly five years as a Public Health Investigator, Chris has accepted the role of Environmental Public Health Supervisor. Chris holds degrees in Animal Science and Ag Business and Sales from Missouri State University. He and his wife had their first child in November. When he’s not keeping our community safe and healthy, Chris runs cattle and assists his wife with their bee hives.