Many of us are ready for summer and backyard barbeque season to connect with family and friends. However, nothing can ruin a gathering more than an outbreak of foodborne illness. As you gear up to enjoy some yummy food, follow these simple tips to keep everyone happy and healthy this summer.

Five Don’ts:

  1. Don’t rinse meat or poultry in the sink – This is common in many households, but splattered water can cross contaminate clean areas and increase the chances of injuring your family.  Instead of washing meats and poultry, pat dry with a paper towel before seasoning and cooking.
  2. Don’t eat or share raw batter or dough that has raw eggs or raw uncooked flour – If you have a baker in the house, this is good information.  Raw eggs can be a rare source of salmonella and raw flour and toxic E.coli have been associated in two large outbreaks.
  3. Don’t thaw or marinate food on the counter – This is a common scenario, especially for large items that take a long time to defrost. At room temperature, the outside can get warm (above 40° F or more) while the interior is still frozen. At these higher temperatures, the bacteria on the surface of the meat or poultry can multiply through several cycles and increase contamination of the food.  Plan ahead and defrost food items in the refrigerator instead of the countertop.
  4. Don’t put cooked meats back into the same container that held the raw meat – Once a food is cooked, do not place it on the same plate or container used to carry or transport the meat. Doing so can cross contaminate the food (that is now germ free if cooked to the appropriate temperature) with the liquids left behind by the raw food.
  5. Don’t eat risky foods if you are high risk to develop food poisoning or have complications from food poisoning – After COVID, we are all aware of differences that can make some people more vulnerable to illness.  With food poisoning, the very young, those with complex medical conditions, the elderly and pregnant females can be more susceptible to harm due to food poisoning. Avoid risky foods like oysters, raw cheese and other high risk foods whenever possible.

Five Do’s:

  1. Do cook meat, poultry, seafood and eggs thoroughly – Cooking meat and poultry to the appropriate temperature can kill all the bacteria in the food and make is safe for all to enjoy.
    • Cook all beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145o F with a food thermometer.
    • All ground, cubed or blade tenderized beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to a temperature of 160o F (when manipulated like this, the bacteria outside the piece of meat can be incorporated deeper into the product, so a higher final temperature is needed to eliminate the bacteria).
    • Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165o F
  2. Do wash fruits and vegetables before cooking, peeling or eating – It is important to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables in running water and remove any bacterial contamination before cooking, peeling or eating them. Fruits and vegetable can be contaminated during the growing and/or harvesting phase due to animal contact, harmful substances in soil or water, or poor hygiene.
  3. Do wash your hands frequently – It is important to wash your hands frequently when handling different foods during the cooking process.  Our hands can spread germs around the kitchen or to different foods that are not contaminated.  It is estimated that good handwashing techniques can prevent 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses.
  4. Do place food into the refrigerator after 2 hours at room temperature – The danger zone between 40o F and 140o F degrees is the temperature range where bacteria can grow rapidly, doubling in number as fast as every 20 minutes when in the middle of this range.  Keep hot food hot ((140o F or above) and cold food cold (40o F or below).  As the food approaches room temperature at the 2-hour mark, place the food back in the refrigerator.
  5. Use separate cutting boards for vegetables and raw meat to avoid cross contamination – Proper food preparation is a key component to avoid food-borne illness. An important part of food preparation is proper separation of meats, poultry, and seafood with a dedicated cutting board.  Meats have the highest amount of bacterial contamination and the bacteria can live in crevices and imperfections in the cutting board.  Having a separate cutting board for fruits, vegetables, bread and other products can prevent cross contamination in the kitchen.

These five Do’s and Don’ts to prevent food poisoning provide the basic tips of safe food handling and preparation. Follow these guidelines and you will have great home cooked meals and gatherings without worry of a foodborne illness.