To protect yourself, your family and friends from food-borne illnesses, the Jackson County Health Department suggests practicing safe food handling techniques when eating outdoors this summer. Keep these tips in mind when preparing, storing and cooking food for picnics and barbecues.
When You Transport Food
* Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be held at or below 40. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another.
* Meat, poultry and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped so their juices don't contaminate cooked foods or foods eaten raw such as fruits and vegetables.
* Before packing, rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. For firm-skin fruits and vegetables, scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” need not be washed.
* Keep the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Limit the times the cooler is opened.
Before Preparing Food
* Food safety begins with hand washing, even in outdoor settings. And it can be as simple as using a water jug, some soap, and paper towels, or consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
* Keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.
Safe Grilling Tips
* Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. Don't reuse marinade.
* Don't use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats and seafood.
* If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven, or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
* When it's time to cook the food, cook it thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
* Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals where it can overcook.
* When you sServe food, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
For more information on outdoor food safety, contact the Jackson County Health Department at 482-7308.