Tips for Keeping Food Safe in Hot Weather

How Safe is Your Picnic?
Did you know most food borne illness is from fruits and vegetables? Learn more ways for keeping your picnic safe and enjoyable.
Food on the grill; Tips for keeping food safe in hot weatherMADISON - A popular way to celebrate summer holidays or any party occasion is to invite friends and family for a cook-out.
However, this type of food service where foods are left out for long periods leave the door open for uninvited guests — bacteria that cause food borne illness.
Keeping Food Safe

Basically, the idea is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This means forethought and preparation on the part of the cook, including safe food preparation, smart transportation of foods to your destination, and safely storing leftovers.

The following are some tips to help you have a safe cook-out celebration.

Safe Food Handling
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food
  • Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean
  • Always serve food on clean plates — not those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Otherwise, bacteria which may have been present in raw meat juices can cross contaminate the food to be served. 
The Two-Hour Rule
Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there two hours or more. 
And if it's above 90 degrees, then food should only be out for an hour or less.
To ensure food is not out for longer than 2 hours, cook items such as hot dogs, brats, chicken, and other grilled food in batches. This ensures that everyone is eating a fresh and warm grilled item. 
Keep Hot Foods Hot
Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer. On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. 
A thermos can be used to keep hot foods warm when there isn't any electricity available. This works well for things such as baked beans and semi-liquid dishes. Simply put the thermos bottles in a cooler without the ice and place towels on top to help keep the food warm. 
And Keep Cold Foods Cold

Cold foods should be held at 40°F or colder.

Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them. And store food in the shade out of direct sunlight when possible.
If possible, have all your cooler food in watertight containers. Add water to the ice which will keep the foods and beverages colder for a longer period. 
If you don't have blue-ice packs, you can fill up zip-top baggies, plastic or cardboard cartons with water and freeze ahead of time. With the baggies or sealed plastic jugs, the melted ice can be used for cold drinking water. 
Be sure the food is already cold before putting into a cold cooler of ice to keep temperatures low. Warm or even room temperature foods added to a cold cooler will reduce your storage time.
Be Safe When Using Electricity
Keep cords out of areas people are walking and bring oven mitts to handle crock pots as they can become very hot.
Unless you have facilities to boil leftover marinades for sauce, toss out the leftover marinade or risk food borne illness. 
Leftover hot foods need to be refrigerated or iced immediately to avoid bacteria contamination. Make sure you bring extra ice if you are away from home.

Date Published: 06/17/2009

News tag(s):  food and nutrition

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