Don't Serve Up Sickness at Your Summer Barbecue

Safety tips to keep food bacteria-free

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

FRIDAY, June 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The living may be easy in the summertime, but the eating can be dangerous.

Those hot days and warm nights can turn the food at your picnic or barbecue into the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that cause foodborne illness such as salmonella.

Proper handling, washing and preparation of food is essential if you want to prevent serving up a side of sickness to family and friends.

Here are some summer food safety tips from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Center:

  • Wash your hands often. That will prevent you from passing bacteria from one food to another while you're preparing a meal. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 15 seconds before preparing foods and after handling raw meats.
  • Separate raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. That will avoid cross-contamination, where juices from raw meat accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and fruits and vegetables.
  • Cook your meats, fish and poultry throughout. Use a food thermometer to check that they've reached the proper cooked temperature.
  • Never put cooked meat on unwashed plates that held raw meats.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Cover hot foods such as steak, chicken or hot dogs in foil to retain heat. Cold foods such as potato salad should stay chilled throughout the day. Promptly refrigerate any food you plan to save for the next day.
  • Melons present a risk for foodborne illness if not properly prepared. Before you cut into a melon, wash the outer surface thoroughly to remove dirt - even if the melon looks clean. Once you cut a melon, it has to be chilled in ice or refrigerated at 45 degrees F or less. Cut melons can be served without refrigeration for a maximum of four hours.
  • Never keep side food items prepared with mayonnaise or those considered to be high in protein out for longer than two hours. Bacteria can multiply in moist foods such as salads and desserts. Keep cold side dishes chilled and out of the sun.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about food safety.

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, news release, June 2003
Consumer News