Potlucks and family events are a fun reason to get outdoors in the warm weather. However, you need to take extra care to keep food safe from foodborne illness. Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer months because bacteria multiply faster with warm temperatures. Read the three simple food safety guidelines below to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from foodborne illness.
Clean. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, touching pets, and using the restroom. After prepping each item, wash and sanitize cutting boards, utensils, and dishes. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water and scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush.
Separate. Never place cooked food on a dish that previously held raw poultry, meat, seafood, or eggs. Bacteria can spread from raw juices to cooked or ready-to-eat food. Instead, use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for raw food items.
Cook. Pack a food thermometer to ensure the safety of meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. These food items must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that could cause foodborne illnesses. Use a food thermometer to test for doneness:
We are spending more money on our food lately than we have in past years. Properly storing food at home saves food dollars, preserves the quality and nutrients, and prevents foodborne illness caused by harmful bacteria.
Many staples and canned foods have a lengthy shelf life. However, foods stored for longer than recommended times or beyond package date may change quality, color, and flavor. Periodically check for expiration dates and discard foods showing any signs of spoilage.
Store perishable foods in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. Items like meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, and fish should be in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Store them in airtight wraps or containers to prevent juices from dripping and contaminating other foods.
Freezer temperatures should be maintained at 0°F or below. Package items for the freezer in moisture- and vapor-proof wraps or containers, using freezer-grade foil, plastic wrap or bags, or freezer paper or containers. Label all freezer foods with the date, food item, and weight or number of servings. For more information on how long foods last, check the FoodKeeper App, www.foodsafety.gov.
Potluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. They are also linked with the spread of foodborne illness. Follow these tips to keep food safe:
If you or someone in your home has “stomach flu” or symptoms of a foodborne illness, don’t prepare food.
Don’t mix salads, such as potato or a tossed lettuce salad, with your bare hands. Use utensils or wear gloves instead.
To keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower), remove items from the refrigerator just before leaving home and put them in a cooler with ice or a freezer gel pack. Remove hot food items from the oven or cooktop and place in containers such as insulated bags to keep foods hot (140°F or above).
To prevent cross-contamination, cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it and don’t transport food with animals in your car.
One in six people get food poisoning—also known as a foodborne illness—every year in the United States. Young children, pregnant women, and older adults have a higher risk of foodborne illness.
Pregnant women are at high risk for listeriosis, a type of foodborne illness that causes miscarriage. Lower the risk by doing the following:
Cook meat, seafood, poultry and eggs thoroughly.
Do not eat cold deli meats or hot dogs. Heat sliced deli meats and hot dogs to 165°F or until steaming.
Avoid raw bean sprouts, unpasteurized milk, or cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Adults ages 60 years and older are at higher risk for foodborne illness because the immune system weakens with age. Likewise, young children are at higher risk because their immune systems haven’t fully developed yet.
Keep everyone safe by following these food safety practices.
Clean: Wash your hands thoroughly. Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces.
Separate: Keep raw meats apart from other foods that may be eaten without cooking, such as fruits and vegetables.
Cook: Cook foods to the correct temperature. Use this handout on food thermometers, bit.ly/2YXooHu, for more information.
Chill: Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than two hours.
Salad is a popular summer dish. However, it is also linked with foodborne illness. There are ways to prepare salad safely so that friends and family do not get sick. Salad food safety tips include the following:
Wash your hands! Always wash hands before and after preparing any salad ingredient.
Don’t rewash lettuce that is already prewashed in the package. This can introduce contaminants that were already eliminated.
Use a different knife and cutting board for each ingredient. If you intend to keep salad ingredients separate for people to make their own, you won’t have contaminated all ingredients.
Keep salads cold in a refrigerator, in a cooler, or over ice. Don’t leave out at room temperature for more than two hours. Warmer temperatures (40–140 degrees) can cause bacteria to grow on food and promote illness.
Make sure salad is served with a utensil and not bare hands. Hands carry viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. It is best to use clean and sanitized salad tongs or forks.
Visit Produce Basics (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics) for tips on how to select, store, and wash many types of salad ingredients.
Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:
Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.