Keeping Your Food Safe On Your Labor Day Picnic
Labor Day is the last blast of summer, and one of many ways people will celebrate it is with one final picnic. But our family practice doctors at Cohen Medical Associates in Delray Beach want you to keep food safety in mind as you enjoy what’s left of the season.
So here are some precautions and tips we want to share with you, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that can keep you from becoming one of the 48 million Americans who contract food poisoning every year.
Keep foods chilled
Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Eating food left too long in the danger zone (40° F to 140° F) can make people sick.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, & seafood chilled until ready to grill, either in the refrigerator or in an insulated cooler below 40° F.
- Put leftovers in the freezer or refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F.
- Keep salads in the fridge or cooler until ready to serve.
- Avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes.
- Throw away any remaining perishable food that hasn’t been refrigerated.
Cook meat thoroughly
It’s important to cook food to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Never partially grill meat and finish cooking it later.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked hot enough to kill germs. Remember, you can’t tell just by looking at it. Those temperatures are: 145° F for beef, pork, and fish; 160° F for hamburgers and ground meat; and, 165° F for chicken or turkey.)
- If you’re smoking meat, keep the temperature inside the smoker between 225° F and 300° F.
- Keep cooked meats hot and out of the danger zone before serving.
Clean hands and produce thoroughly
When on a picnic, it can be especially difficult to practice good food hygiene, but it’s essential to avoid food poisoning.
Wash fresh vegetables and lettuce. If you’re not sure whether water will be available to wash on site, rinse produce before packing it for the picnic.
- Wash your hands before handling any food and especially after touching raw meat, poultry, or seafood. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Clean work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
- Examine the grill surface carefully for bristles that might have come loose from the grill brush. These could get into your cooked food and injure you if swallowed.
Separate raw from cooked
You never want bacteria from raw meat or seafood to contaminate other foods, surfaces, or utensils.
- Throw away or thoroughly cook marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat or seafood.
- Put cooked meat on a clean plate, never one that has held uncooked meat.
- Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood away from cooked and ready-to-eat food and drinks.
- Don’t use the same utensils on raw foods and cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
If you do contract food poisoning
The results of food poisoning are thoroughly unpleasant, even temporarily debilitating, but they are usually not life threatening. Typical symptoms—which can begin within hours of consuming tainted food—include nausea, vomiting, watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain and cramps, which can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Depending on the type of pathogen ingested, these symptoms may also begin days or even weeks later.
More serious symptoms can include:
- bloody vomit or stools;
- diarrhea lasting more than three days;
- frequent episodes of vomiting/inability to keep liquids down;
- signs of dehydration: dry mouth, excessive thirst, little or no urine output, severe weakness, dizziness/lightheadedness;
- an oral temperature over 100.4° F; or,
- neurological symptoms such as blurry vision, muscle weakness, or tingling in the arms.
All these are serious symptoms requiring immediate medical attention.
If you’re not sure whether food poisoning symptoms warrant medical treatment, don’t hesitate to check with us.