For most of us summer fun includes gathering with friends and family around the scrumptious flavors of the season. Whether you’re cooking on the grill in your own backyard, packing a picnic basket for the beach or filling your backpack for a hike—it’s good to take a few minutes this summer to review some food safety tips. Plus with the prevalence of food allergies and celiac disease, it might be nice to think about what steps to take for guests with special dietary requirements.
Here are 7 tips for food safety this summer:
1. When packing your cooler for a long trip, you might consider freezing some food items ahead of time. This will more likely keep your items at a safe temperature in transport and can help your entire cooler function better as a cold spot. Remember that a cooler full of cold or frozen items will maintain lower temperatures better than a partially filled cooler. Pack high, even if it’s just by adding a bag of ice cubes or frozen juice boxes serving double-time as ice cubes.
2. If you’re taking produce on the road, try washing all salad ingredients and fruits or vegetables before packing and find a cool place for transport.
3. If running water is not available remember to take along hand wipes or hand sanitizers that don’t require water to clean hands before and after working with food.
4. Wash hands, utensils, and other food contact surfaces using soap and warm/hot water after contact with raw meat or poultry. If you’re taking meats to grill at the park or beach, consider getting them ready while you’re at home. Taking pre-formed burgers or trimmed chicken from a container prepared at home surely beats tangling with preparation while you’re away. Remember to use fresh utensils and plates to turn items and for removing food from the grill.
5. If you’re cooking for someone with food allergies, think ahead about any marinades you might be planning to use. Check to see if all ingredients are acceptable. You might be surprised at how many marinades contain gluten or nuts. Clean your grill surface well, and segregate any foods that might contain allergens of concern (including cheese that might be added to hamburgers). Use a separate utensil and plate when handling the food that must avoid allergens. You might consider inviting your guest to assist with cooking his or her special item. This might increase everyone’s sense of comfort regarding safety.
6. Cook foods to proper temperatures. As a refresher, you can review minimum cooking temperatures here. Don’t forget to pack your meat thermometer if you’re travelling.
7. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours when the temperature in the food serving area is below 90° F, within 1 hour when the temperature is above 90° F. Getting food back into the fridge promptly is always a good idea. Produce and leftovers will last longer.
For more great tips on food safety, visit the US Health and Human Services website on food safety. Happy grilling!