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Keeping foods safe at your next BBQ

It’s the season for grilling, picnics, and eating outside. But with the warm temperature and sunny days, how can we make sure our food is kept at a safe temperature and avoid foodborne illness? 

There is a higher rate of foodborne illness aka food poisoning during the summer months because of 2 main reasons: bacteria grow faster in heat and flourish in moisture, and summer weather is often hot and humid. Given the right conditions, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on your favorite foods and in some cases, make you sick. So here are a few tips to avoid food poisoning this summer (and any other time of year):

1.     Wash your hands. This is the simplest yet most effective method of avoiding the spread of harmful bacteria. If there is no soap available, hand sanitizer does the trick.

2.     Avoid cross-contamination. Cross contamination occurs when harmful bacteria from one food land on foods that were safe. Therefore, when packing a cooler full of food, wrap raw meats well so that their juices don’t touch ready-to-eat food. Also, wash utensils, plates, and cutting boards that touched raw meat before using them again, even if it for the same (but cooked) food.

3.     Cook foods to the right temperature. High heat kills harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness, so have a food thermometer on hand! Whole poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 85oC, pieces of poultry and ground beef to 74oC, and fish to 70oC. You can also grill meats and vegetables separately so the meat cooks thoroughly and vegetables don’t burn.

4.     Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Foods should be kept of the danger zone of 4oC-60oC as harmful bacteria can grow in this temperature range. Any food left at this temperature for more than 2 hours (or more than 1 hour on a hot, sunny day) should be thrown out. This means thawing meats in the refrigerator and not on the counter because this increases the amount of time a food stays in the danger zone. To speed up the process, sealed packages can be thawed in cold water. You can thaw foods in a microwave if you will cook the food right away. Cold foods can stay cool by keeping them in a cooler filled with ice, ice packs or frozen water bottles. Consider keeping drinks in a separate cooler as it will be opened frequently, thereby causing your ice to melt. Also, remember to place your cooler in the shade and replenish the ice whenever possible. Hot foods can remain hot by being placed near the BBQ (but off the grill so the food doesn’t overcook).

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