With football season underway and the end of the summer approaching, tailgates and barbeques are being enjoyed by many. Food safety is especially important during those two fun celebrations. Here are some ways to keep you and your family safe to prevent food borne illness, but still enjoy barbequing and tailgating.
1. Food should not be left out for more than two hours. When the temperature reaches 90 degrees, this is cut back to one hour. Temperatures lately have been in the 90's, so this is very important to remember. Bacteria grow very rapidly and can reach an unsafe level in that amount of time. A better idea is to keep the food cold in a cooler or refrigerator, but just place out what is needed and refill accordingly.
2. Keep everything clean. Wash your hands often and make sure plates and utensils are clean. Washing your hands is best, but if water is not available, hand sanitizer is a second option. Keep your kitchen (especially the sink) clean and clean up any messes from food.
3. Prevent cross-contamination. It is not necessary to wash "ready-to-eat" or "pre-washed" bagged greens or raw meat, because the risk of cross-contamination is high. Keep raw and cooked foods separate. If you are working with raw foods, make a bleach solutions of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water to sanitize. Use this to wipe down surfaces and either wait 30 seconds to wipe off, or just let air dry.
4. Use a meat thermometer. This is the only surefire way to tell if a food is done. Poultry should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees F, steaks should be at least 145 degrees F, and ground meat should be 160 degrees F.
5. It is necessary to wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Think about how many people may have touched those foods before you eat them. Don't forget the ones that have a peel (bananas) too. The exception is "pre-washed" or "ready-to-eat" bagged greens. You should also wash canned goods before opening, to get off any dust or contaminants on that lid.
6. Do not thaw meat on the counter. If it reaches a temperature of 40 degrees for more than two hours, it is unsafe to eat and could potentially cause someone to get sick. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees, which is the temperature foods reach when you thaw on the counter. Plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator, thaw in a cold water bath in the sink (change the water every 30 minutes), or thaw in the microwave just before cooking.
7. Cooking does not kill all bacteria. Cooking to a proper temperature does kill some harmful bacteria, but if that food has been left out and bacteria were able to multiply rapidly, they may have left behind dangerous toxins.
For more information, check out the FoodSafety.gov website.