Nutrition-Bites-Summer-Food-Safety

Nutrition Bites: Summer Food Safety

Summertime is a season full of outdoor fun and picnics! Barbecues are a popular way to celebrate the season. Even though eating outside is a nice way to take advantage of warmer weather, it is also when bacteria thrive and are more likely to contaminate food. The most common ways that food becomes infected with bacteria at picnics is by leaving food out uncovered, not cooking food to the proper temperatures, and cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods.

The most common bacteria found to cause foodborne illness during the summer are Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Listeria causes one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses, listeriosis, and is very dangerous because it can grow at both cold and warm temperatures and cause complications in pregnant women. Listeria is often found in soft cheeses, deli meats, raw vegetables, store-bought salads like tuna and ham, and hot dogs. Salmonella is one of the most common sources of foodborne illness and has recently been found in cucumbers, chicken, eggs, pistachios, raw tuna, and sprouts. Salmonella loves warm weather and if foods are not chilled or frozen within 2 hours of cooking or buying they are in the perfect condition for Salmonella growth. E. coli is another common bacterium that is usually in the news due to large outbreaks of illnesses. It is spread through contaminated water or contact with infected people or animals and E. coli is particularly dangerous for older adults and children under the age of 5 but it can infect anyone. The easiest way to prevent foodborne illness of any kind is to keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot, cook food to the correct temperatures, and prevent cross-contamination.

When bringing food to a picnic it is important to think about what the food is being brought in and how it will be kept cool or warm till serving. The best way to prevent infection during transportation and preparation of food is to keep raw meat and/or seafood away from other foods, place drinks in separate coolers from the food, and to keep coolers closed so that food stays cool before serving. Before eating, cold foods must be kept at or below 40 F (refrigerator temperature) and hot foods at or above 140 F. While food is being served it is important to not eat any food that has been out for more than 2 hours or more than 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90 F outside. According to the FDA, there are 4 simple steps to avoiding foodborne illness.

1. Wash hands and surfaces frequently
2. Keep raw meat and seafood separate from other foods
3. Cook all foods to the correct temperature
4. Chill foods to less than 40 F within 2 hours of cooking.

By following these four steps it is easy to avoid foodborne illness during the summer.

Learn more about Foodborne Illness Contaminants and Food Safety for a summer of safe food prep!

By Erin Sempowski, Tulane Dietetic Intern
June 2018

Topics:   nutrition , diet

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