Seven super steps ensure summer food safety

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118538921618501.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘Warm weather provides the perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply and cause foodborne illness. Taking precautions ensures your summer barbecue remains safe and fun.‘);

OREGON—Living in northern Illinois, we know we have to take advantage of the good weather when we have it. Many of us will pack up the children and head outdoors to the park with a picnic basket. The warmer weather conditions are ideal for outdoor gatherings, but also provide the perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply and cause foodborne illness.

A great example of this occurred at Taste of Chicago. More than 500 people reported digestive problems after eating at one of the popular food booths. If a foodborne illness can happen to consumers at a facility that is trained in food safety, then it can also happen when consumers get lax during summer months.

During warm weather, it is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. The following safe food suggestions come from Fight BAC! (Partnership for Food Safety Education):

1. Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands (as in Row, Row, Row Your Boat). Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

2. Marinating Mandate. Always marinate food in the refrigerator. Don’t use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinade before applying to cooked food.

3. Hot, Hot, Hot. When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.

4. Temperature Gauge. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.

5. Where’s the Beef? Chicken and Fish? Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare or to 160 degrees for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.

6. Stay Away from that Same Old Plate. When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that held raw food, unless it has been washed with hot, soapy water first. And in hot weather (above 90 degrees) foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going in the refrigerator.

7. Icebox Etiquette. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sunlight.

For more information about food safety, contact Linda Long, associate sanitarian, Ogle County Health Department, at (815) 732-7330, ext. 292.

from the July 25-31, 2007, issue

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