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Summer Food Safety

Submitted by Marilyn Gordon EdD RD CSSD LDN

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist

It cannot be emphasized enough; the importance of safe food handling and preparation during these summer months. This is the most popular time for family picnics, holiday BBQ’s, and outdoor food preparation. The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick, are hospitalized, or die due to foodborne illness every year. Infants, children, the elderly, and those immunocompromised are most at risk. The first rule of food preparation is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. The CDC offers instructions for proper handwashing technique:

The CDC identifies the top 5 pathogens as the Norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium Perfingens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus Aureus. The good news is that all of these pathogens except for Staphylococcus Aureus can be killed by heat and cooking. The Staphylococcus Aureus contamination is from direct contact from infected foodservice workers. Foods at risk are sliced meats, sandwiches, pastries, and puddings. Take a good look at the procedure followed at your favorite sandwich shop. Did they just take a customer’s money and then around to make your sandwich? Are hands being washed? Are there frequent changing of gloves?

The other four pathogens are related to unpasteurized dairy, raw and undercooked eggs, meats, and poultry. Thoroughly cook all poultry to a minimal internal temperature of 165 degrees F. All leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours of preparation to less than 40 degrees F. Here are some brief tips to prevent each one:

Norovirus: Wash hands thoroughly. Rinse all fruits and vegetables. Cook shellfish completely.

Salmonella: Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or ground beef. Wash hands thoroughly after handing small pet turtles or chicks.

Clostridium Perfingens: Found primarily in raw meat and poultry. Foods that are cooked in large quantities and held for a long time are at risk (catered events, BBQ’s, buffets).

Campylobacter: Found in unpasteurized dairy, raw or undercooked meats. Thoroughly cook all poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Do not drink unpasteurized milk.

Make it a safe and fun summer by washing your hands thoroughly before food handling and cook your foods thoroughly and check the internal temperatures with a food thermometer. Be mindful of time and safe food temperatures.