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JulyBBQ-grilled-mea-89126834by Angela Aladjem RD, LD

Summer is here and your outdoor party invitations are certainly on the rise. Dining outdoors with friends and family is such a welcome treat and break from being cramped indoors the year through. However, eating outside or at a picnic site presents challenges to consumers that can cause serious health issues, especially in immunocompromised populations such as the elderly, young children, and pregnant women. Lets discuss some ways to keep your food safe once it leaves the shelves of the grocery store.

Prevent Cross Contamination: When different foods are mixed, such as raw meat and vegetables, bacteria can be spread from one item to another. If you use a knife to cut raw chicken to put on the grill, and then cut vegetables for a salad, the salad could be contaminated with salmonella that will not be cooked off. Another issue with cross-contamination is for those with food allergies or preferences such as being a vegetarian. Some of your best bets to prevent these issues are to have separate serving bowls and utensils for each item, keep raw food away from prepared items, and wash plates that had raw items on them before using again. And the simplest way to help prevent cross-contamination is to wash your hands. If you are out and away from a sink, keep handy wipes, a bag of moistened paper towels, and hand sanitizer.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold: Once hot food comes off the grill, or out of the oven, serve it right away if you can. If not, wrap the items up and keep it in an insulated container to keep it at temperature. The same goes for cold items. Ideally, they should be kept at below forty degrees. You can keep foods in a cooler or keep the bowl or plate in a shallow tray with ice. If foods aren’t kept cool or hot, you risk them growing harmful bacteria, which can make you and your party sick. And sad to say, once foods leave the grill, oven, or refrigerator, you only have two hours to consume the food. If you haven’t refrigerated the food, you are best to throw it away. This includes leftover hummus, dips, salsas, etc. Better safe than sorry!

For more information on food safety, see www.fsis.usda.gov. They have great resources for consumers to help keep you and yours safe. Have an enjoyable summer and be well!

In health, Angela



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