Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer food safety

Pat MacIntosh
Pat MacIntosh, Registered Dietitian, Alberta Health Services - For many of us, summer is a time for picnics, barbecues, and camping. However, keeping food safe during these fun events is a challenge. Warmer temperatures and cooking outdoors both increase the risk of food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever and chills. Symptoms can develop within hours or sometimes not for days or weeks.

Here are some outdoor food-safety tips to help keep you and your family safe during the summer.

Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling food. Also wash after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching pets. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if there is no soap and water.

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water. You can sanitize them with a mild bleach solution. Rinse with fresh water and air dry.

Separate – Don’t mix raw and cooked food.

Keep your raw eggs, meat, fish, and poultry separate. Use containers or re-sealable plastic bags to help prevent leaks. Place these raw foods on the bottom shelf of the fridge or in the bottom of the cooler to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.

Never put cooked food on an unwashed plate that had raw food on it.

Use one cutting board for raw meat, fish, and poultry and a separate cutting board for vegetables and fruit.

Cook – Cook foods to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria

Use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature of foods.

Boil leftover marinade for one minute before using it on cooked food. 

Keep hot food hot, above 600C. 

Chill – Refrigerate foods quickly after cooking

Don't keep food at room temperature for more than one hour on hot summer days.

Keep cold foods cold, below 4°C (40°F). Use a cooler filled with ice packs if you don’t have a fridge or freezer. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often.

Thaw and marinate foods in the fridge.

Always keep food out of the danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Harmful bacteria can grow in as little as two hours in this temperature range. Remember to clean, separate, cook and chill foods to help lower the risk of food poisoning and keep your meals safe this summer.

Pat MacIntosh is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. She can be reached by e-mail,

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