Summertime smells of picnics and barbecues. Any given day can be marked with smoke from backyard grills and dotted with families laying out blankets or gathering around park tables. Lurking underneath each gathering is the silent bite of food poisoning. It can strike at any time and affect anyone. It is important to be aware of this possibility and know how to avoid it at your gathering this summer.
-The first and most important step in avoiding food poisoning this summer is; WASH YOUR HANDS! It seems like a simple and given solution, but most often food poisoning is caused by the food handler that forgot to wash their hands while cooking. Obviously, you should always wash your hands before you start cooking. But, you should also wash them during the cooking process. Always, always, always wash your hands after handling any raw meat. It is also a good rule of thumb to wash them again if you walk away from the food and come back to it. Washing your hands multiple times while cooking is a sure fire way to keep food poisoning at bay.
-The second best way to avoid food poisoning is, make sure your meat is thoroughly cooked. Under cooked meat is a huge cause of food poisoning and worse. If you think it may be a little too pink, it probably is! Throw it back on the grill for a few minutes. Know the proper temperatures for cooked meat, especially poultry.
-Another thing to remember is to be careful leaving any salads or sides made with mayonnaise or eggs out in the heat for too long. The heat causes these types of food to breed bacteria so they should not be left out of the refrigerator for too long. Try to leave them out just long enough for everyone to get their meals and then put them back in the fridge. If people want more, take it back out. It may seem like a pain, but it is better than you or someone else getting sick!
-Lastly, many people end up with food poisoning the next day due to eating bad leftovers. The food can and will begin to spoil as it sits out, especially outside in the hot sun. Reheating the leftovers will not cook off the bacteria. The best advice is; when in doubt, throw it out! If you are in anyway uncertain about the leftovers, just toss them. It is hard to do because it seems wasteful, but you will be grateful when you aren’t sick from food poisoning.
Everyone loves a barbecue in the hot summer months, and many folks will attend or throw one themselves. Let’s be honest, most people will not even think about food poisoning while they are enjoying the delicious spread. However, it is a reality that should be kept in the back of the mind every time you light up that grill. Follow these simple rules at your gatherings this summer and you can remain food poisoning free!