Everyone loves to hit the great outdoors during the warm weather and for most of us food plays a large part in our summer activities and celebrations. But it’s important to keep in mind that warm temperatures, while ideal for picnics, barbecues and trips to the beach, also provide an inviting environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness.
Stay safe this summer by keeping perishables cold or frozen until ready to cook or serve. Here are some tips to help keep you and your family safe this summer.
- During food preparation, meat, chicken and seafood should not be left out at room temperature. Marinate meat in the refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice.
- Most people don’t realize that even for a short period of time, perishable food is very susceptible to bacteria growth. By simply packing your food in a cooler with lots of ice, you greatly reduce the threat of foodborne illness.
- Remember that a full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. Be sure to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. The temperature inside the cooler should be at or below 4°C (40°F).
- Keep your cooler out of direct sun. Cover with a light blanket or umbrella.
- When carrying drinks, consider storing them in a separate cooler to avoid opening the food cooler frequently.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use containers or re-sealable plastic bags to prevent leaks.
- Place raw meat at the bottom of the cooler to keep juices from dripping on other foods.
- Use the same proper cleaning techniques that you regularly use at home. Use clean water and soap to wash utensils, counter tops, dinnerware, tables etc. Rinse with fresh water and dry.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Bacteria are killed by heat. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood must be cooked to a safe internal temperature to eliminate harmful bacteria.
- Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meats.
- Do not reuse plates, tongs or other utensils that have touched raw meat! Use a clean plate when taking food off the grill.
- Keeping several sets of clean utensils, cutting boards, and plates on hand will help you prevent cross-contamination.
Some foodborne illnesses can lead to serious long-term illnesses.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome, one of the leading causes of acute kidney failure in children is caused by an infection with E. coli. The bacteria produces a toxin which can cause damage to red blood cells, the kidneys and other organs. E.coli is most dangerous to young children, elderly adults and those with weakened immune systems. Read Some Facts about E. coli for more information.
For more tips to keep yourself and your family safe, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/safe-food-handling-tips.html. Remember, most foodborne illnesses are entirely preventable. See our fact sheet, Food Safety for Kidney Patients Fact sheet, as well.
Written by Trish Reynolds, Communications Manager at the Ontario Branch of the Kidney Foundation, and reviewed by Dani Renouf, RD, MSc.