Warm weather and outdoor celebrations increase foodborne illnesses. The most important principle of keeping food safe is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Bacteria grow best between temperatures of 40°F and 140°F so it is essential to keep food out of this temperature range.
For warm weather travel, it is best to transport chilled foods.
- Refrigerate or freeze the food overnight.
- For a cold source, bring frozen gel-packs or freeze some box drinks.
- The drinks will thaw and keep your meal cold at the same time.
If you are keeping hot foods hot while traveling, you can use the new insulated casserole dishes, which will keep food hot for an hour or so. Use a food thermometer and follow the new recommendations for safely cooking meat, including grilling. Take the temperature in the thickest part of the meat without the thermometer touching bone while it is still on the grill. When it comes to safely grilling meat, remember these three numbers:
- 145°F for all whole meats PLUS three minutes rest time (This is a new recommendation for pork.)
- 160°F for ground meats
- 165°F for all poultry (including ground poultry)
Hot or cold, plan ahead: decide what you are going to eat, how it will be prepared, and how you will transport and store it.
- Pack safely: use a cooler with a cold source if picnicking, camping, or boating; pack foods in the frozen state with a cold source if hiking or backpacking.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods.
- Never bring meat or poultry products without a cold source.
- Toss leftover food unless your cooler has enough ice to maintain foods below 40°F.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
- Pack cold beverages separately from food to prevent food being exposed to frequent opening/closing of cooler.
- Never use the ice used for cooling for consumption.
Adapted from USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)