If it's summer, chances are youand your foodwill be spending a lot of time outside. Here's how to keep your food from getting contaminated and you from getting sick.
At your summer picnic
Since July is National Picnic Month, we want all of our outdoor eating this summer to be funand safe, says Justin Wangler, executive chef at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center near Santa Rosa, California, who does his share of summer picnics. But there are plenty of food-safety pitfalls that can ruin the funso take these precautions.
- Transport picnic foods in the passenger seat; your trunk can reach temperatures of 150 degrees F.
- “If you’re going to grill, always make sure to keep all of your raw meats separate from your cooked foods,” Wangler says. Pack them on the bottom of your coolers so the juice doesn’t drip onto your produce.
- Keep foods in coolers or on ice whenever possible, and keep it away from the direct sun and insects, says Steve Loehndorf, a food-safety expert at Reser’s Fine Foods, one of the largest deli-salad manufacturers in the United States. And use clean dishes and utensils to serve the foods (not the ones used for food prep), he says.
- Pack plenty of moist towelettes or hand sanitizers, in case you’re not near hand-washing facilities. Clean hands frequently during food prep and before serving. That means you shouldn’t touch raw chicken and then serve the salad, for example.
At the farmers’ market
Farmers’ markets have traditionally had relaxed methods of food handling because the produce was uncut and would be cleaned at home, Chandler says. Now that they’ve become social events with tastings, you need to pay more attention to food safety. Her tips:
- Sample foods only from booths where there is evidence of clean hands at work. Look for gloves, hand-sanitizing gels, or even a bowl of clean water.
- If foods are being cut on site, separate knives should be used for meat and other foods, and they should be cleaned between uses.
- Don’t eat samples that are clustered on a plate, allowing passersby to pick up a piece. This is a breeding ground for cross-contamination, thanks to dirty hands. Chandler recommends only eating samples that are pre-toothpicked.
- Skip a sample if flies are buzzing around; they can carry Campylobacter jejuni, the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States.
- Wash before eating. Those grapes you eat on the way home may not be clean.
At your next barbecue
A common mistake is soaking raw meat, shellfish, fish, or poultry in marinade before grilling and then returning the cooked food to the same dish or using the soaking marinade for basting. Dispose of all soaking marinades after using.
Finally, keep an eye on how long food is sitting out on your BBQ buffet. It doesn’t take long for food to spoil, says Ellie Krieger, RD, host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite:
“When I host an event, I stagger the times that I put out different platters. And ever since I learned how bacteria grow, I’ve followed the two-hour rule of packing and refrigerating foods that haven’t been eaten at room temperature within that time frame. If it’s a hot summer’s day and you’re outside, pack up or toss food after it’s been out for one hour.”