4 Steps to Safe Summer Picnics

Did you know that foodborne illnesses increase in the summer months? Read on to find out why and how you can prevent it from affecting you and your family.

The Unites States Department of Agriculture suggests that there may be two reasons why foodborne illness (also called food poisoning) increases in the warmer months. First, bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Second, as people spend more time cooking outdoors, they often forgo the safety controls of an indoor kitchen such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities.

Fortunately, in just four simple steps you can reduce your risk of getting a summer time foodborne illness.

Step 1: Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often. You can never do these things too much when it comes to handling food and cooking. If you’re eating away from home, find out if the site has potable water. If not, bring your own and pack disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels to clean your hands and cooking surfaces.

Step 2: Don’t cross-contaminate. Wrap raw meats securely before packing them in your cooler and avoid letting raw meat juices come in contact with ready-to-eat food. Thoroughly wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that come in contact with raw meat.

Step 3: Cook all foods to their proper temperatures. Heating food to their proper temperatures can kill harmful bacteria that contribute to foodborne illness. Use your meat thermometer to determine if your food is heated through. Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts, and chops should have an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. All cuts of pork should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground beef, veal, and lamb should achieve an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and all poultry should reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4: Refrigerate as soon as possible. Perishable items, such as lunch meat and potato or pasta salad, should be kept in an insulated cooler under several inches of ice. Keep your cooler in the coolest part of your car and leave your cooler in the shade whenever possible. Maintain a cool temperature in your cooler by replacing ice as soon as it begins to melt. Do not leave perishable foods out of the cooler for more than two hours. Try to pack drinks in a different cooler than perishable foods since you’ll probably open the drink cooler frequently, which lets in warm air that can raise the temperatures in some foods and make them unsafe.

Following these steps can help you keep your food fresh and prevent you from getting sick, but there is one more thing you should always remember: when in doubt, throw it out.

Cook Safely, Grill Master

Whether you’re an apprentice or the heralded and respected Grill Master of old, here are a few safety tips you should know.

  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator rather than the counter or outdoors.
  • Keep your grill away from brush, foliage, and trees that can easily catch fire.
  • Grill at least four feet away from any structure.
  • Keep a spray or squirt bottle full of water nearby to extinguish flare-ups from dripping fat.
  • Use utensils designed for grilling, which often have longer reaches and heat-safe handles.
  • Wear an apron to protect your clothing from grease spatters. An apron also adds another layer of protection against burns.
  • Use oven mitts with caution. The newer design of high-heat silicon mitts are a better option than cloth mitts, which are more likely to catch fire if a stray flame shoots up.
  • Make sure children and pets stay a safe distance away from a hot grill.

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