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.
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.