11 Summer Food Safety Tips

Enjoy your grilling, picnics, and cookouts—safely!

May 17, 2017
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From Memorial Day to Labor Day (and even well into tailgate season), you want to enjoy your food outdoors. But that doesn't mean that you have to leave yourself vulnerable to foodborne bacteria, thanks to these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

More: Food Poisoning or Flu? How to Tell the Difference

"This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, I encourage families to get outside and enjoy our natural resources, national parks and forests, and the variety of food America's farmers are able to provide," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home. USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer and to take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions."

Don't get bit by a stomach bug. Use these tips from the USDA for safe summer eating.

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Packing a picnic

• Brown-bagging it won't cut it for raw meat (including poultry and seafood), deli meats and sandwiches, side salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood), cut fruits and vegetables, and perishable dairy.

• The USDA recommends using a cooler filled with ice, icepacks, or frozen food, and if you're bringing the family dog, be wary of these popular picnic foods that can poison your pup.

• Your food will stay colder, longer if your cooler is totally full (rather than partly full) and kept in the shade. Keep cooler opening to a minimum.

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Grilling up grub

• Have a designated cutting board for raw meat and a separate cutting board for ready-to-eat items that won't be cooked.

• Don't let raw meat sit idly by in the summer sun. Keep it cold until it hits the grill.

• Use a food thermometer. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal are done at 145 degrees F, ground meats at 160 F, and poultry at 165 F (as well as these other must-have grilling tools).

• Have a clean plate and serving utensils ready for cooked food. Don't re-use the dirty stuff that touched raw meat.

• Gluten-free? Make sure your summer meals stay that way with these rules for gluten-free grilling.

• Don't forget to keep your recipe components separate, whether you're making any of our top 50 grilling recipes, side dishes, burgers, or skewers

More: Your Guide to Healthier Grilling

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Outdoor ambience

• You may enjoy shooting the summer breeze around the picnic table, but your leftovers don't want to be out for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees.

• Instead of setting out the entire dish, use smaller serving plates and keep the bulk of the food at appropriate temperatures—cold food stays cold and hot food stays hot (140 degrees or more)

• To avoid overcooking your food and making it toxic as you try to keep it hot, don't put it directly over the coals. Putting food on the side of the grill rack will keep it plenty hot.

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