Food safety during summer celebrations
The summer has officially begun. Memorial Day is behind us and the Fourth of July will be here before we know it. Parties, picnics, weddings, reunions and more will be celebrated with family and friends.
Whether the food will be made at home or purchased from the store, basic food safety must be observed. A party can turn into a disaster quickly if a foodborne illness shows up, too.
Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. The majority of foodborne illness outbreaks stem from germy fingers and uncontrolled body fluids. Sneezes and coughs have a way of transferring viruses to people with and without food. Utensils and paper products usually are not carriers of sickness, but it has happened.
Rubbing, scrubbing and thorough cleaning with plenty of friction on your hands is the best way to wash bacteria right down the drain. Dry hands with a single-use paper towel when preparing food for others, especially if the temperature control is questionable. Hand sanitizers are not substitutes for clean hands, but they are better than nothing. Soap and water is the best deterrent.
Transferring germs from one food to another is a no-no. Avoiding cross contamination is a vital process in keeping guests healthy. During preparation, never mix raw food with already-cooked or ready-to-eat food. Use a clean plate when taking meat off the grill. Keep food safe by using one utensil per food item on a serving table. When serving, fingers are forbidden.
Hot food needs to be kept above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold food stays safer if below 41 degrees. If menu items are kept at room temperature or above 70 degrees for more than four hours, throw them away. Buy a food thermometer. Use it. Follow the directions to calibrate it.
After everyone eats, store food properly. Leaving it out for the flies to land on it is a disaster waiting to happen. When a fly lands on food, it spits its own juices on the food and stomps in the spittle until the food is liquid and the fly is able to suck it up. While doing that, the fly usually stomps in some extra germs for good measure. When the fly is through eating, then it is your turn to partake. Sounds yummy, right?
Get the leftover food out of the heat. Unless the temperature is going up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, most foods will not be safe to eat after being out of the oven or refrigeration for 4 hours.
Only serve as much as will be eaten, that way the leftovers are limited. Making potato salad for a small army is not necessary for a picnic for eight people. Put foods in smaller containers to begin with. This will make serving and cooling much easier.
When in doubt; throw it out. Especially do not let little kids, older folks or those with a disease consume questionable foods. If one of your foods or your food handling makes someone ill, you may not get invited again. Worse yet is that no one will want to come to your parties.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330–684-4776.