Summer food safety—eat and be merry

Summer is a wonderful time to gather with friends to enjoy eating meals out on the patio, to picnic, and to keep the kitchen cool and clean by grilling outdoors. We think of food poisoning as something we get at a restaurant, but dangers can be lurking on our own picnic tables. Food poisoning cases go up in the summer, as you might expect. Forty-eight million cases of food poisoning occur annually, the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans.

Here are key steps to having safe food on your summer table.

  • Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, with your microwave, or in cold water, never on the counter for longer than 2 hours. Completely thaw meat before smoking it.
  • Cold foods should be stored at 40 degrees or colder.
  • Pack your cooler to stay cold for hours. Use food already cooled rather than trying to cool the foods in your cooler. A full cooler will hold its cold longer. Pour off melted water in your cooler and add more ice.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds. Sliced fruits and veggies should be kept cool, i.e., place plate on top of ice.
  • Marinate meats in the refrigerator. Never use marinade that has been on raw meat unless it is boiled.
  • Bring and use a thermometer! Cook meats to their safe internal temperature:

Hamburgers 160°
Hotdogs 165°
Chicken 165°

Rare 130°
Med Rare 145°
Med 160°
Well Done 170°

  • Danger zone for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 degrees!
  • Always heat leftover foods to 165 degrees.
  • After 2 hours, refrigerate meat, poultry, sliced fruit and vegetables left out. If the outside temp is 90 degrees, food should be refrigerated after 1 hour. Discard food left out after 2 hours.
  • Bring plenty of plates; never use plates that held raw meat for other uses. One drop of raw chicken juice is enough to make you ill.
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol sanitizer when handling food.

Symptoms of food-borne illness can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain or cramps
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache
  • Contact your doctor if you have a high fever, bloody stools, prolonged vomiting, and dehydration.

For more information on storing foods, check out FoodKeeper App.
(Information taken from