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Keep Your Foods Safe this Summer

By Heather Maloney
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent

Summertime means eating on the go: at the beach, on a picnic or at an outdoor barbecue. Between the bugs and the hot sun, how do you keep your food safe? Sandra Allonen, a registered dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has some advice:

At the beach or on a picnic

  • Handle perishable foods safely: keep hot food hot; keep cold foods cold.
  • Make sure the food goes right from the fridge to the cooler — don’t let it sit out.
  • The safest foods to pack are things like pre-packaged cheese sticks, fruit, peanut butter sandwiches, and vegetables like baby carrots and cherry tomatoes (remember to wash them before packing them). Meats and mayonnaise-based salads are more susceptible to dangerous bacteria.
  • Carry your food in a cooler with ice packs, and keep a thermometer inside to monitor the temperature. Don’t let the temperature get above 40° F.

On the grill

  • Steak should be cooked to a minimum of 145° F; use a meat thermometer to be sure.
  • Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160° F. Chicken should reach 165° F.
  • When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.
  • Don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry (and their juices) can contaminate safely cooked food.

At an outdoor party

  • Always use clean utensils and serving plates for cooked foods.
  • Don't let any perishable food sit out for more than two hours. In very hot weather (above 90° F), food should not sit out for more than one hour.
  • Serve hot foods at a temperature above 140°F, and cold foods below 40° F.

And remember, Allonen says, "When in doubt, throw it out!"

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted June 2013

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