With warm weather and endless days, it’s easy to see why we all enjoy a barbeque. But nothing can ruin your summertime fun than a trip to your local emergency department or urgent care center. According to the CDC, each year an estimated 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases. Most of them are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. And, while anybody can become sickened from these types of illnesses, we often don’t think about them until it is too late. It may not always be possible to avoid being the victim of food poisoning, but there are ways to reduce your risk.
- Consider placing your food in a chilled cooler for the trip home from the supermarket, especially if it’s really warm out or you have a lengthy ride home. It’s important to refrigerate your food as soon as you arrive home.
- During parties, keep foods such as salads and meats in a cooler. If you are transporting foods to a picnic or barbeque, chill them prior to packing them. Place raw meat and poultry on the bottom so their juices don’t contaminate other items. Keep the cooler in the coldest area possible, or in the shade. Transport drinks in a separate container. Try to avoid opening and closing the cooler unnecessarily to maintain a steady temperature. Leave food out no more than two hours, and one hour if the weather is warm.
- When it comes to cooking meat, always use a thermometer to ensure your food is thoroughly cooked. Cook burgers to 160 degrees, hot dogs to 165 degrees, steaks up to 145 to170 degrees, and poultry to 170 to 180 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flaky.
- Keep grills, utensils, containers, and cutting boards clean with hot soapy water and then rinse well. It’s always smart to use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meats, cooked meats, and produce. Serving platters should also be kept separate for each.
- One of the most important steps is handwashing. Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands before, during, and after food handling. Wash hands in soapy water and rinse. If unable to do so, use hand sanitizer.
- Be wary of unpasteurized foods which can harbor a slew of unhealthy bacteria. And, never ignore signs of food poisoning which can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Seek medical attention, especially if fever or dehydration accompanies these symptoms.
Summer is a great time to eat healthy and enjoy plenty of fresh foods. With just a little care, you can relax and enjoy your summer barbeque. Have a fabulous time and stay well!
Joshua George, RD, is a Bariatric Dietitian with Cooper University Health Care’s Center for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. For more information about weight loss, or to schedule an appointment, click here.