We’ve had a pretty good summer so far—for the first time in three years, food poisoning hasn’t dominated the headlines. But it’s still early, and a big picnic holiday is coming up. Here’s how to host a healthy and safe Independence Day.
Start With Hand Washing:
The vast majority of foodborne illness can be prevented by washing hands, counters, picnic tables, and other surfaces. It may seem compulsive, but food poisoning boils down to one of two causes: 1) Someone didn’t wash their hands, 2) Food was mishandled (wrong temperature, or raw meat wasn’t separated enough).
Do A Little Prep:
-Wash your fruit under running water, then put on a towel to dry (even if you don’t plan on eating the skin). A paper towel can help keep berries fresh between washing and eating—just line your tupperware with it.
-Prep your raw meat separate from other foods you’re bringing. Find a way to package it so that you will have minimal handling to do once it’s time to grill. Marinated foods must be refrigerated.
Keep Food Separate:
Cool food needs to be transported and stored at 40°F or less. You may want three coolers to avoid cross-contamination: one for raw meat (if you’re grilling), one for other foods like fruit and salads, and one for drinks (the drink cooler will probably be opened frequently, causing it to warm up faster).
Don’t forget to pack something to wash your hands with—a cheap jug of water, soap, and a towel, wet wipes, or some other idea.
Keep hot food warm either on the side of the grill, or with speciality dishes and sterno. Steak, pork, etc. should cook to an internal temperature of 145°F, chicken and ground meat to 160°F. Besides food poisoning, some meats may carry parasites, which is why well-done is recommended for anyone with a weakened immune system (like pregnant women and the elderly).
As soon as you are done with a plate/whatever that touched raw meat, wash it. This will prevent it from accidentally touching cooked food.
The “Danger Zone” is 40°-145°F. If the weather is cooler than 90°F, food needs to be thrown away after 2 hours in this zone. If it’s over 90°F, food needs to be thrown away after only 1 hour.
Keep cold food cold longer by placing the dish in a bigger dish of ice, or the hot dish over a heat source.
Did you eat a food “oopsie”? Or just something questionable? Fight back against food poisoning by eating a big dose of probiotics (a supplement like Flora MGR is the fastest way). The good bacteria in probiotics support our GI tract against foreign pathogens.
And a final warning: don’t leave kids or pets in the car unattended. Not only is it illegal in most places, it’s already caused many deaths this summer.
What are your Fourth of July plans? Anyone have a good menu to share?