Because the only thing worse than food poisoning is food poisoning over summer vacation.
Summer is upon us and with it brings an increase in foodborne illness. Aside from the warmer weather being a risk factor, people typically spend more time in the summer cooking and consuming food in a nontraditional setting. To help keep you and your family safe this season, we've compiled a handy alphabet guide.
A ● Animals
Petting zoos are a popular attraction in many outdoor festivals and fairs. Avoid bringing exposed food or beverages around them -- the dust in the air may contain fecal matter and settle.
B ● Backpacking
It is not recommended to consume foods stored in a cooler longer than 24 hours. For a multi-day excursion, your best bet is to bring shelf stable items in a lightweight retort pouch. This sterilization process provides stability and maintains freshness in a variety of foods, such as pre-cooked rice or tuna.
C ● Clean
Summer provides many opportunities to cook outside the kitchen. No matter where you're headed, the four basic food safety steps must be followed: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
D ● Deliveries
Meal kit deliveries are especially susceptible to pathogen growth in warmer months. Decreasing the amount of porch time will help minimize potential time/temperature abuse (and pests!). To check for abuse, inspect the contents prior to refrigeration and sandwich a probe thermometer between two temperature sensitive items.
E ● Errands
A vehicle's interior can heat up fast and exceed outdoor temperature up to 30 degrees. Make grocery shopping your last stop and never store food in the trunk. If possible, bring coolers and ice packs with you for storing raw meats, dairy, and frozen goods.
F ● Festivals
Between the limited handwashing, port-a-potties, and mobile food vendors, outdoor events can quickly become a hub for foodborne illness. When purchasing food, check the cleanliness of a vendor's area. Leaks, trash build-up, excessive bugs, and blocked handwash sinks are all indicators of unsanitary practices.
G ● Grilling
Ground meats have a greater surface area exposed to oxygen, allowing harmful bacteria to grow on both the surface and interior. To check doneness, inspect for signs of pink and probe the center with a meat thermometer. Beef patties should have an internal temperature of 160*F and chicken or turkey patties at 165*F. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to an internal temperature of 145*F.
H ● Handwashing
Sorry, dipping them into chlorine pool water doesn't count. To properly wash hands, wet hands with warm water and soap before scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Dry hands with disposable paper towels or air dryer.
I ● Ice
Ice is a known vehicle for pathogens and consumed "ready to eat". Never use the same ice for multiple purposes, like chilling raw meat and then adding to drinks.
J ● jejuni
Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. Prevent it by handling raw poultry correctly and cooking thoroughly.
K ● koolers
Coolers must be packed and used correctly in order to keep food chilled.
Fill the cooler as much as possible. A full one stays cold longer than partials.
Add 3 - 4 inches of ice at the bottom and place raw meats here incase they drip.
Avoid thawing frozen food before packing. The frozen state will keep food cold longer.
Use frozen water bottles or juice boxes to help keep food cold.
L ● Leftovers
It's easy to get caught up in summertime fun and leave food out; however, food sitting out for more than 2 hours must be discarded. In hot weather (above 90*F), the time drops to 1 hour.
M ● Mobile
Living spaces visited seasonally, such as recreational vehicles (RVs), vacation homes, and beach houses may have items previously stored. Discard canned items with signs of damage or freezing and thawing occurred.
N ● News
Keeping up with food safety recalls is now easier than ever. Set up automatic alerts from government agencies or create your own using a search engine, like Google Alerts. A recent FDA study on ice cream shows Listeria monocytogenes present in the processing environment. Freezing does not kill the pathogen, it only inhibits growth.
O ● On-site
At outdoor events, temporary and mobile food vendors are usually required to show proof of compliance with health code regulations before selling, but there's no guarantee the vendor selling snow-cones in the parking lot has. Ensure anyone handling your food is using gloves or clean utensils, and be cautious of food if it has been sitting out.
P ● Produce
In the summer we're consuming more produce that was grown or prepared outside of inspected establishments. To stay safe, only purchase whole produce, inspect carefully, and wash before consuming.
Q ● Quick
Reduce the time food sits out to one hour when the outdoor temperature exceeds 90*F. The exposure time shortens as the optimal growth temperature (around 98*F) nears.
R ● Roadtrippin'
The same food safety rules apply with food on the road. Food intended for cooking should be packed in a separate cooler from snacks and drinks so it stays closed. Store away from direct light and near an A/C vent.
S ● Seafood
Catching dinner can be an enjoyable summertime activity. For best practices, fin fish should be cooked within 1 - 2 days, assuming scaling, gutting, cleaning, and storing occurred immediately after catching. Shellfish must stay alive until cooked, preferably the same day for crabs and lobsters. Mussels and clams can last 4 - 5 days and live oyesters up to 10 days.
T ● Type
Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods have specific attributes attractive to pathogens, making them more susceptible to pathogen growth. The most common TCS foods are meat products, eggs, seafood, dairy, cooked vegetables (especially potatoes), custards, garlic in oil mixtures, and cut leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes. It may be wise to limit these foods if you have doubts.
U ● Uninvited
Pests are not only a nuisance, but they carry pathogens that cause Salmonellosis, Gastroenteritis, and even The Plague. While outdoors, keep food off the ground and covered.
V ● Vacations
International travel requires extra precautions to avoid foodborne illness. The most common recommendations are:
✔︎ DO ✗ DON'T
Ask for dining recommendations Drink the tap water
Pack an over the counter medication Assume food was heat-treated Pay attention while food is being prepared . Consume raw produce
W ● Water
No matter how safe water from a natural source may appear, always purify before using it for drinking, washing hands, cleaning, or cooking. Boiling or purifying tablets are two common ways to purify. To boil, first bring water to a rolling boil and continue boiling for 1 minute (or several minutes at higher elevations). If the water is muddy, let stand until the silt has settled at the bottom and boil the clear water at the top.
X ● Xtras
Along with food, these considerations also apply to xtra (see what I did there?!) items, such as garnishes, water, and serving utensils.
Y ● You
If you do end up ill and suspect food poisoning, contact the local health department you believe the food was consumed in. Information from patrons, even after recovery, plays a pivotal role in preventing the spread to others.
Z ● Zoonotic
An infection is considered zoonotic if it transmits from animal to human. In the case of food, it is caused by consuming water or food that has been contaminated with specific pathogens found in the intestines or fecal matter of animals. Since it is found in all animals (including humans), we cannot eliminate it but we can control and minimize by following the alphabet of food safety.