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Avoid These Common Summer Food Safety Mistakes

Healthy Grilling

Summertime is the time to enjoy eating “al fresco,” with family and friends at the beach, camping, or lakeside. But what many don’t realize among all that fun in the sun is that the chances of getting sick from contaminated food increases as the temperature rises.

Registered dietitian Susan Bowerman, of Herbalife Nutrition, shares four common summer food safety mistakes to avoid this summer:

Poor Packing Strategy

If you’re bringing raw meat for grilling to an outdoor event, you want to make sure it’s packed carefully to avoid raw food contamination from any meat juices that could leak out. Pack meat in a separate container or plastic zip lock bag, and away from beverages or any ready-to-eat foods that are also in your cooler. Ensure your cooler is also packed with plenty of ice or ice packs so that everything stays nice and cold.

Not Cooking it Through

When it’s time to serve food from the grill, check thicker items, like bone-in chicken pieces, to make sure they’re cooked all the way through before serving. They may cook quickly on the outside, but are often still raw or undercooked in the middle. If you have the time, you can partially cook chicken pieces in the microwave, then drop them in a zippered plastic bag with the marinade and refrigerate. Since the chicken is partially cooked, it will take less time to finish on the grill and cook more evenly without drying out.


Once your fish, meat or poultry comes off the grill, it might be tempting to dunk it back in the marinade—but don’t do it. Since the marinade was in contact with raw or undercooked meat, it could harbor some harmful bacteria that could cause illness.

Lingering Leftovers

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When it comes to leftovers, an easy way to remember food storage guidelines is simple: two hours, two inches, four days– familiarize yourself with the “2-2-4 rule.”

Two hours is how long foods can safely stay at room temperature after you’ve taken them out of the oven or off the grill. In the case of cold foods, two hours is how long they can safely stay out of the refrigerator or cooler. But there’s an exception to this rule: the limit drops to just one hour if the outdoor temperature is 90 degrees F (32C) or higher. Once the time limit is reached, the food should be refrigerated or frozen. So, if you’re away from home, be sure to pack up your food and place it back in the cooler with your ice packs to keep it at a safe temperature.

Two inches refers to the maximum depth of the container to allow foods to cool down evenly and quickly. If containers are too deep, it takes too long for the food in the middle to cool down.

Four days is the safe time period to enjoy your refrigerated leftovers in.  Otherwise, you should toss them out. But picnic leftovers are pretty tasty, so chances are that they’ll be long gone before then.

For more tips from Susan, visit www.IAMHerbalifeNutrition.com.

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Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition

Susan Bowerman is the director of nutrition training at Herbalife Nutrition , where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife sponsored blog, Discover Good Nutrition. She is a registered dietitian, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics and a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition. Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.