Note: This article was written by Jenna Leopold, a dietetics student that is interning with me at Hy-Vee this summer.
Summer is the best time to be outside enjoying the warm weather that winter made us long for, whether we are engaging in our favorite outdoor activity or just relaxing in the summer sun. Since we spend a majority of our summer being outdoors, we tend to eat more meals outside. When we eat outdoors, we don’t have all the luxuries of a kitchen, like a refrigerator or an oven. Often times this can cause a higher risk for food spoilage or bacterial growth when eating outdoor meals. We do have alternatives like coolers and grills when outside that can help us keep food at desired temperatures. If our coolers and grills are used correctly, we can reduce our risk of obtaining food-borne illnesses and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. There are other steps that you can take to practice good food safety. With these five simple tips, you will be able to reduce your risk of obtaining a foodborne illness.
Tip #1: When in doubt, throw it out! If you have the slightest question whether or not your food is safe to eat, throw it out. It is better to throw it away than to get sick from it.
Tip #2: Keep foods colder than 40 degree and warmer than 140 degrees. Anything in between these temperatures is in the temperature danger zone and is the perfect temperature for harmful bacteria to grow. To keep foods below 40 degrees, try holding food on ice and if at all possible, have a warming tray to keep foods warmer than 140 degrees.
Tip #3: Perishable food shouldn’t sit at room temperature for more than two hours and if the weather is warmer than 90 degrees, you should only let your food sit out for an hour. Always remember that the one- to two-hour time limit for food to sit out includes food preparation, storage and serving time.
Tip #4: Make sure you handle your food with clean, washed hands. When you are participating in any outdoor activity, it is easy to pick up a lot of germs. Given that it is summer and a lot of the foods that we eat are finger foods, it is important to always wash your hands before touching or eating food.
Tip #5: Keep food and coolers in a shaded area away from direct sunlight. Following this tip will allow your cooler to stay colder longer, keeping your food out of the temperature danger zone. If you don’t have access to a shaded area, try using a blanket or towel to cover your cooler.
- Jenna Leopold, Worthington Hy-Vee Dietetic Intern