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Picnic scene with hamburgers, corn on the cob and potato wedges. Top view over a white wood background.

Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. Stay healthy and safe during warmer months by following these summer food safety tips.

When Bringing Food to a Picnic or Cookout

  • Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
  • Foods that need to be kept cold include:
    • Raw meat, poultry, and seafood
    • Deli/luncheon meats and sandwiches
    • Summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood)
    • Cut up fruit and vegetables
    • Perishable dairy products
  • A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.  When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade.
  • Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.

When Cooking on the Grill

  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
  • Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures.
    • Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145°F with a 3 minute rest time
    • Ground meats: 160°F
    • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165°F
  • Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.

African American couple laughing at a multi generation family barbecue

When Serving Food Outdoors

  • Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours.  In hot weather (above 90°F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
  • Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler.  After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served (at 140°F or warmer).
  • Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.

Leftovers & Reheating

  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F/ 32°C).
  • When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs or hamburgers, grill them to 165°F (74°C) or until steaming hot.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, May). Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html.

Source: Terence Martin, Ph.D., Urban EFNEP Program Manager, and Tamara Warren, Ph.D., Urban Human Nutrition, Diet & Health Specialist, both from Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University.

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