This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Summer presents a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family around the grill or at a picnic. Whether at a sporting event or a family reunion, getting together with people is a summer staple, and most of those occasions are accompanied by food. Don’t let your summer picnic become a saga of sickness. Instead, follow these tips to learn how to prepare and store food properly so that it’s safe to eat.
Preparing and storing food for outdoor summer events requires special precautions to ensure food safety. Start off your meal right by always washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. It’s important to wash both before and after handling food, whether you are preparing the food or getting ready to eat.
Avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when germs from one type of food, like raw chicken, get on another type of food, like ready-to-eat veggies for salad. Use separate utensils for each type of food. Additionally, when taking cooked foods off the grill or stove, do not put them back on the same plates or pick them up with the same utensils that were used for raw food, unless the plates and utensils have been washed with hot water and soap first.
Another way to keep from cross-contaminating your food is to avoid re-using sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry. If you want to re-use marinades as sauce for cooked food, be sure to boil it first or set aside a portion of the unused marinade to use later as a sauce. Always marinate and defrost food in the refrigerator, where it will be kept cold to prevent growth of dangerous germs.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that food on the grill reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare or to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe to eat. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
In hot weather (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going in the refrigerator or cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it’s important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold. Also, this will keep drinks from coming in contact with raw foods.
For more information about Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us on Facebook at Carson City Health and Human Services.