Bacteria, Food Poisoning and Cookouts: Your Guide to Safe and Healthy Celebrations this Summer

Summer is full of celebrations, and food is often an essential part of these special events! But as you’re planning your menu, or what to bring, knowing the basics of food safety can make or break your festivities.   

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 9 million reported cases, 56,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths annually of food born illnesses.  

At summer cookouts, the conditions for food borne illnesses are plentiful, as warm temperatures allow bacteria multiply rapidly and undercooked meat from the grill can lead to serious illness. 

The CDC recommends the following tips for food safety: 

Cleanliness is Key: 

  • Wash produce, cooking utensils, and surfaces used for cooking and preparing food 
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing, cooking, and serving food 
  • Serve food on clean dishes and surfaces 
  • Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw foods such as seafoods, poultry and meats.
    • Uncooked foods and anything that touched raw food (marinades, knives, containers, etc.) can contaminate ready-to-eat foods with harmful bacteria.  

Meat Thermometers are your friend! 

  • Foods must be cooked to specific internal temperatures to be eaten safely. Use a food thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the food to get an accurate reading:
    • 145F for seafood and fish, steak, pork
    • 160F for ground meats, hamburgers, and sausage
    • 165F for all poultry 

Keep Your Cool 

  • Keep perishable foods in a refrigerator, or insulated cooler with ice or ice packs, at a temperature of 40F or under until the food is ready to serve. 
  • Set out perishable foods in batches, leaving the rest in cold storage until needed.  
  • In temperatures 90F or above, refrigerate food left out at a buffet or table after one hour. For cooler temperatures, food may be left out for up to two hours. 

Beware Bacteria 

Some foods present obvious contamination and bacteria risks (meats, seafood, dairy, eggs and mayonnaise), but others can be just as prone to grow bacteria in warm temperatures! Some other common foods, according to ServSafe, that can promote dangerous bacterial growth if not kept cold after being prepared are: 

  • Cut watermelon & other melons 
  • Cut tomatoes 
  • Cut lettuce 
  • Pasta & other grains 
  • Beans & legumes
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Potatoes 

Don’t know where to start? Try The Open Door Cookout-Ready Recipe Collection: 

CLICK HERE for our pasta salad recipe, which you can easily tailor to your tastes by adding and subtracting the ingredients you enjoy to build a crowd-pleasing dish.  

CLICK HERE for our Summer Bean Salad, a budget-friendly, plant-based protein dressed in bright summer flavors. 

CLICK HERE for our coleslaw recipe, a cookout staple! 

CLICK HERE for our watermelon salad, a refreshing summer favorite. 

CLICK HERE for our fruit kabob recipe, a fan-favorite.

CLICK HERE for our marinated veggies recipe. 

These recipes can be used as sides in addition to meats or other proteins to create well rounded meals at your next cookout. Following the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines, a well-rounded meal fills half your plate with vegetables and fruits, followed by whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. 

Don’t let food poisoning sour special memories this summer; follow these tips and enjoy nutritious, safely prepared food with your loved ones this season.  

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