Summer is coming! Barbeques, picnics, fishing and camping trips, days at the beach, family reunions, wedding receptions…and more. There are plenty of activities where you may be served food out of doors! In the heat… The longer perishable food stands out… the quicker it will become less palatable and more dangerous! Yes, dangerous to those who may consume it because bacteria like food too! Observing all the rules of good food safety are even more important when refrigeration might not be at its peak! So what can you do?
Make sure to have enough ice, ice blocks, keep-cold bags, heavy duty aluminum foil and cold water on hand, for your cooler or to chill the foods you will serve cold. This may take preparation… Every kind of “dollar” store carries ice blocks, so does Walmart. Bags of ice can be purchased at the grocery or convenience store and toted in a cooler!
Make sure to refrigerate foods as long as possible before serving and when people are done helping themselves at a table, cover and place food in the refrigerator or cooler until it’s time for second helpings–especially in the case of foods containing mayonnaise or mayonnaise-based salad dressings, for instance, potato, chicken, tuna, shrimp or egg salads…or sandwiches made with mayo. The same is true for meat, poultry and fish! Make sure it’s thoroughly cooked and served hot and don’t let it stand out after serving and guests have helped themselves, refrigerate and reheat in the microwave if necessary. Don’t leave it out.
If you are carrying food in a cooler long distances, check it periodically to make sure the ice or ice blocks are still frozen! Replace with more ice if not! Wrapping foods in foil when you place them in the cooler helps too!
Make sure not to re-freeze thawed raw meat, poultry or fish. It’s just not a good idea. If you marinate raw (meat, poultry, fish) food, please do place it in the refrigerator while marinating.
Also, if something is past its sell-by or recommended use-by date, chuck it in the trash! It’s not worth getting sick over it.
Wash fruit, lettuce and other vegetables, especially those served raw, thoroughly before cooking, serving or consuming! (You can even wash the skin of potatoes, cucumbers and melons.)
Make sure to wash your hands when you prepare food, before you begin preparing a dish, and in between touching raw eggs, meat, poultry or fish and other foods, utensils that have touched food and counter and prep surfaces. (It might sound like a lot of hand washing, but it’s worth it!) And then, wash your hands afterward before you touch anything else, so you don’t cross-contaminate other food, utensils, etc. (Make sure not to use the same utensils when preparing different meat, poultry and fish or other foods.) Make sure the pots and pans you use are clean and dish towels if you use them as well… Clean paper towels are preferable to dish towels. If your dish sponge is dirty, ditch it! You can even put dish brushes in the dishwasher with the dishes regularly!
Doing these things will help to reduce the chance of you, your family and your guests getting a foodborne illness! Enjoy your summer!