CLAY COUNTY – Summer in Florida provides us with many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. From picnics to barbecues the warm summer weather also presents many opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive and multiply.
When bringing food to a picnic keeping cold foods cold is crucial. Make sure to use an insulated cooler filled with ice. Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meats; deli meats or sandwiches; salads such
as potato salad or tuna salad; cut fruits and vegetables; and dairy products. Placing the cooler in the shade and out of direct sun along with avoiding opening the cooler repeatedly will help your foods stay colder longer.
Keeping our food cold is not the only concern in the summer. Safe grilling practices is also a major concern. If you are grilling away from home, find out if there is a source of clean water for washing hands and cleaning surfaces. Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Wash work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
Do not use the same platter, cutting board, or utensils for raw and cooked foods. Bacteria present in raw meat can easily contaminate your cooked foods. Also, marinate safely in the refrigerator prior to transport. Never marinate on the kitchen counter or outdoors and don’t reuse the marinade on cooked meat.
Cooking food to a safe internal temperature is key to destroy potentially harmful bacteria. Meat cooked on the grill will quickly brown on the outside, but it is essential to use a meat thermometer to ensure that it is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops and roasts; 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground beef, pork, lamb or veal; and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry.
After cooking meat and poultry remember to keep those hot foods hot until served. You can keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where it could overcook. If reheating chilled fully cooked meats, like hamburgers and hotdogs, grill to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or steaming hot.
When serving food outdoors the general recommendation is that perishable foods should not sit out for more than two hours but when temperatures are 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher outdoors, like many of our summer days here in Florida, these foods should never sit out for more than one hour. Also, don't leave condiments such as ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise out while you're waiting for the food to cook. Bring them out only when the food is ready to be served, and promptly put them away after everyone has eaten. It’s best not to take a gamble and get food poisoning, always remember “if in doubt, throw it out.”
Don’t be one of the millions of diagnosed with food poisoning during the summer months when warmer temperature cause bacteria to flourish.
Contact Annie Sheldon at the UF/IFAS Extension Clay County at 904-284-6355 for additional information for a safe and enjoyable barbecue season.