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During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are still under stay-at-home orders and practicing social distancing. While summer is the time when people gather for family reunions and other festivities, keep in mind that public health officials continue to prohibit large public gatherings. If you are planning to cookout or entertain, however, consider these tips to remain safe and to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Food Safety and COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is believed to spread through respiratory droplets when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. While it is possible that a person can contract the virus by touching surfaces or objects, such as food or food packaging, this is not a common mode of transmission. However, there are food safety practices in place when handing and preparing food.

Transporting Food

COVID-19 does not grow on food. However, harmful bacteria will grow between 41°F and 140°F. Keep this in mind when picking up meat, poultry, or seafood from a store, for example. It’s wise to bring a cooler and ice packs to keep food at 41°F or colder during transit.

When unpacking groceries at home:

  • Prepare or refrigerate meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishable items within two hours of purchasing. Never allow meat, poultry or seafood to sit at room temperature for longer than one hour if air temperature is above 90°F.
  • Wash surfaces with hot, soapy water, or a bleach solution if food leaks occur.

Clean Surfaces and Dishes

  • Clean and disinfect kitchen counters using reusable or disposable gloves.
  • Clean surfaces with soap and water, then use a disinfectant. Soap and water will reduce germs and disinfectants will kill germs that grow on surfaces. Surfaces that are touched daily, such as kitchen countertops, should be cleaned frequently.
  • Avoid using disinfectants that are manufactured for hard surfaces, such as bleach or ammonia on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap.
  • Wash dishes and eating utensils using disposable gloves and hot soapy water or place dishes in a dishwasher.

 Food Preparation

  • Thaw food in refrigerator or in cold water. Be sure to change water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook food promptly when thawed.
  • Wash hands before and after the handling of food for 20 seconds using soap and warm water.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of food. Keep raw meat separate from other food and wash counter tops or cutting boards with hot, soapy water after use.
  • Be sure to cook food at proper temperatures as indicated by Foodsafety.gov.

 Serving Food

  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold while serving.
  • Encourage family and friends to bring their own food and drinks if entertaining.
  • Limit the access of people to food areas, such as the kitchen or the grill.
  • Assign food servers to limit the number of people handling utensils.
  • Purchase condiments and other food items in individual packets.

Other Entertainment Safety Tips

The CDC also offers the following safety tips when entertaining this summer under COVID-19 restrictions:

  • Advise sick people to stay home.
  • Host activities outside whenever possible.
  • Maintain social distancing by placing tables and chairs at least 6 feet or two arm lengths apart.
  • Wear masks when proximity is less than 6 feet.
  • Engage in activities like frisbee or dancing that requires little or no contact.

Summer is a time when people like to gather and entertain. However, it’s important to practice safe social distancing and other recommended guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

More Information

Find more information about the coronavirus and reducing the spread by visiting the Alabama Cooperative Extension System online. Visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s Fact Sheets page on food safety and preparation for more information.

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