ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Summertime is full of sun, fun and most importantly, food. Picnics and barbeques are a staple during the summer, usually celebrated with large amounts of food. As we continue to highlight the 101 Critical Days of Summer, here are a few tips to ensure your food is safe and you stay healthy this summer:
– Wash your hands. One of the easiest ways to prevent foodborne illness is to keep your hands clean. Everybody washes their hands at their convenience. However, when cooking for large gatherings, you must be a little more disciplined. Wash your hands after touching your face, handling raw meat and using the restroom. Wash your hands for a total of 20 seconds with warm soapy water. This will reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella and the norovirus, and cross contamination.
– Keep your foods separated. Always store raw foods below ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator. Not doing so may risk raw foods falling onto the food you and your guests are about to eat. Be sure to use separate utensils for each dish and prepare food on separate areas of the counter.
– Clean everything. If it is going to touch the food in any way, clean it. If you are not sure if it is clean or was cleaned, clean it. Bacteria grows fast everywhere, so it is best to keep everything as clean as possible when preparing food. Again, washing your hands and keeping everything clean is the best way to prevent foodborne illness.
– Invest in a thermometer. While we know bacteria grows extremely fast, there are ways to suppress their growth. Cold foods should be kept below 41°F and hot foods should be kept above 135°F. The “Danger Zone” is between these two temperatures and the bacterial growth rate is high. Food cannot be in the “Danger Zone” for more than 4 hours. The best way to monitor these temperatures is by using a thermometer.
– Know your food allergies. Food allergies are common. It’s recommended to create a list of all your known food allergies. This list can be given to your server when you’re out to eat, and they can give it to the kitchen staff to ensure they are aware of your food allergies.
Now that you know the basics of food safety, be sure to apply these tips this summer to ensure your food is safe and you stay healthy all summer long. For questions, call Robins Public Health at (478) 327-8019.