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Keeping Summer Foods Fresh & Safe

(ARA) – Summer is the season to be outdoors with friends and family at picnics, barbecues and many other events. But the warm weather also brings an increase in foodborne illnesses when food sits out in hot, humid conditions. Make sure your summer party is memorable for reasons other than food poisoning by taking steps to keep food fresh and safe.

Dr. Claudia Fajardo-Lira, spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, says most foodborne bacteria thrive in summer’s steamy conditions. “It’s critical to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness like E. coli and salmonella,” she says. “Always remember to wash your hands and, if you don’t have running water, bring along a water jug, some soap and paper towels; or use hand sanitizer.”

Fajardo-Lira suggests following food safety steps recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Get food safely to its destination

* Keep cold food cold and stored at 40 F or below to prevent the growth of bacteria. Use a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs and limit the number of times you open the cooler.
* Pack beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers.
* Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry wrapped securely to keep juices from contaminating other foods.
* Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before packing and eating.

Grill to perfection

* Never marinate foods outdoors or on a kitchen counter. Always marinate in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that has touched raw meat.
* Cook food thoroughly and use a food thermometer to ensure proper temperature. Steaks and fish should reach 145 F, pork 160 F and poultry and hamburgers 165 F. Shellfish should be closed tightly before cooking and cooked until their shells open.
* Keep hot food hot by moving finished meats to the side of the grill rack, away from the coals.
* Do not reuse platters or utensils that have touched raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Keep food out of the “danger zone”

* Never let your picnic food sit outside in temperatures between 40 F and 90 F for more than two hours. When temperatures are above 90 F, food should not sit out for more than one hour. Discard any food that has been left out for a longer time.
* Perishable foods can be placed on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice.
* Wrap hot food well and place in an insulated container until serving.

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