Man eating bread
By Katherine Dennison, RD Chief, Nutrition and Food Service
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Did you know that food borne illness rises in the summer months? This is due to microorganisms growing faster in a warmer climate. They are always present in our food system but grow optimally in high temperatures and also when it is humid outside. There is another reason. Activities outside increase. People like to barbeque, grill, picnic, basically consume food outside more often. Most people will not become ill, as they general have a healthy immune system. But for someone whose immune system is compromised, and/or a young child or elderly individual, microorganisms consumed in food can make one ill. Good hygienic practices can help prevent an illness.
Here are basic tips to keep yours and your loved ones risk low:
- Clean your hands and surfaces often. Please wash your hands with soap and water before preparing or eating any food. Prepare and cook food on clean surfaces. Use utensils that are cleaned thoroughly. Keep hand sanitizer handy, just in case.
- Cook food thoroughly. If you are taking food outside that is cooked at home, cook it thoroughly and seal the container during transport.
- Do not cross contaminate. Wrap raw items separately from cooked items, and raw meats/poultry away from other foods.
- Keep cold foods cold, and hot foods hot. When traveling and/or presenting food outside, use freezer packs and/or warm food up by the fireside.
- Keep food no longer than 2 hours out at room temperature or up to one hour outside at higher temperatures.
A few more warning signs:
- Fish should never smell fishy.
- Cold cut meats should not have a shiny rainbow coat on it. This means it is spoiled, even if it does not smell. Watch for spoiled fruits or vegetables.
- One spoiled fruit or vegetable, DOES spoil the bunch. Ethylene gas emitted from a ripe fruit, will increase the ripening of all the other fruit; thus your fruit can spoil quicker.
When in doubt, throw it out! If it smells funny, it is funny! For more information about food safety or to learn more about nutrition and weight loss, please call 202-745-8000, ext. 8269.