Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…
Q: Mr. Pedometer, I have been invited to a potluck dinner in a local park. But I am concerned about the hot weather and food poisoning?
A: You have reason to be wary: More people get food poisoning in the hot weather of summertime than at any other season, according to the Department of Agriculture. Here are some ways to prevent this from affecting you and your friends, as suggested by Consumer Reports on Health (July 2019, CR.org/crh):
PLAN YOUR GROCERY RUN – Avoid potential food poisoning, especially in hot weather, starting with how you navigate the grocery store.
- “Pick up perishables, such as dairy and meat, right before you hit the check-out line to reduce the risk of them spoiling.”
- “At check-out, make sure that frozen and cold items are packed in the same bag, which will help everything stay cool. But be sure to pack meat and seafood separately to keep them from contaminating other foods.”
- “Don’t transport your groceries in the trunk; put them inside your car where it’s air-conditioned. If you won’t be going straight home after shopping, use a cooler or an insulated bag to stash meat and other perishables.”
ORGANIZE YOUR COOLERS – “Wrap meats tightly before placing it in a cooler to keep any juices from contaminating the other food, or put it in a separate cooler.”
- “At an outdoor gathering, don’t leave perishable food in the same cooler as beverages. People will be opening and closing the ice chest frequently, and that can raise the temperature inside the cooler.”
GRILL SAFELY – “Keep knives, tongs, and platters you use for raw meat away from cooked food. If you’re cooking kebabs, use different skewers for meat and vegetables so that you can be sure the meat is cooked to the right temperature without burning the veggies.
- “Use a meat thermometer, even for burgers, because you can’t judge the done-ness of meat or poultry by color.”
- “Don’t partially cook meat at home and then take it to a picnic or barbecue to finish cooking. Half-cooked meat can be warm enough to encourage bacterial growth but not hot enough to kill the bacteria.”
KEEP AN EYE ON MORE THAN JUST MEAT – To avoid food poisoning, “Prepared food should not be left outside of a refrigerator or cooler longer than 2 hours (or an hour if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees F).”
- “That goes for every element of your meal, from a crudité platter to grilled chicken. You might think you can get sick only from meat or dairy, but other food items can be host to dangerous bacteria as well.” (Examples include cooked rice and pasta. Keep them chilled until serving, or serve by setting them in a bowl of ice.)
BE CAUTIOUS AT THE FARMERS MARKET – “Buy from vendors who wear disposable gloves to handle food – and who change them when they move between raw and ready-to-eat or cooked foods, or when they stop handling foods for such tasks as accepting cash.”
- “Buy meat and eggs only if they have been stored in coolers or otherwise refrigerated.”
- “Don’t buy raw milk or raw milk products. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says they’re some of the riskiest foods.”
Sharing food at picnics or barbecues can be one of the greatest pleasures of summertime. By taking a few precautions, you can make sure that these happy events won’t be followed by the misery of food poisoning.
If you would like to see more Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends articles go to the World Walk To Wellness website.