Our top ten tips for preventing food poisoning this summer

While summer barbecues, picnics, parties and vacations can be fun, they come with an increased risk of contracting food poisoning from contaminated food. In fact, every year one in six Americans comes down with a foodborne infection. Here are our top ten tips for preventing food poisoning so you and your family can have the healthiest summer possible!

1) Cook meat to recommended temperatures.

Undercooked meat is one of the most common sources of foodborne infections. So it’s important to be aware of the recommended temperature for the meat you’re cooking, and use a meat thermometer to make sure your meat is cooked properly.

(Click here for a helpful chart of recommended cooking temperatures.)

2) Keep track of how long food has been sitting out.

Make sure you’re aware of how long food has been sitting out. To avoid foodborne illnesses, don’t leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. If you’re outdoors and the temperature is over 90 degrees F, food should be refrigerated after one hour. Food that’s been sitting out for longer than these recommended times should be discarded immediately.

3) Thaw frozen foods appropriately.

Frozen food should be thawed in a refrigerator that’s 40 degrees F or lower, or in a microwave that’s 140 degrees F or higher. Avoid thawing frozen food at room temperature, or in warm water, because once it reaches a temperature over 40 degrees F, bacteria that may have been present before the food was frozen can begin to replicate, creating an increased risk of infection.

4) Wash fruits and vegetables (Even if you’re peeling them!)

Many people think of meat and dairy as key sources of foodborne illnesses, but fruits and vegetables can cause food poisoning, too. Produce can become contaminated from the soil it’s grown in, or during harvesting and transportation. Even if you’re going to be peeling the produce, it’s important to wash it first to avoid getting contaminants into the part of the produce you’ll be eating.

5) Practice food safety when traveling internationally.

While summer often affords people the opportunity to take international vacations, it’s important to know and follow food safety guides when you’re traveling abroad, especially to under-resourced countries. Eat only cooked food or produce you can peel, don’t drink tap water or brush your teeth with it, and avoid ice cubes, since they’re often made with tap water that can cause traveler’s diarrhea.

6) Store raw meat separately from other foods.

Since pathogens from raw meat can contaminate food around it, it’s important to keep raw meat separate from everything else in your fridge – especially food that you’re not able to cook before you eat it (like salads).

7) Disinfect hard surfaces.

Many people think that the bathroom is the germiest room in a home, but it’s actually the kitchen! Microbiologists have found high amounts of Salmonella and E. Coli on sponges, kitchen sinks, stove knobs, cutting boards and countertops. To avoid foodborne illnesses, make sure you disinfect these surfaces regularly.

8) Check expiration dates.

When you’re reaching for an ingredient, whether it’s perishable or non-perishable, make a habit of checking the expiration date to make sure it’s still safe to consume.

9) Don’t drink unpasteurized beverages.

While unpasteurized beverages like fruit juices and milk are touted as healthy drink options, they can cause serious (in some cases, life-threatening) infections, since they haven’t undergone the heating process that eliminates bacteria and other contaminants.

10) Wash your hands.

Many foodborne illnesses can be prevented with adequate hand washing. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands before and after preparing food and before eating, either by scrubbing your hands for twenty seconds with soap and water, or by applying hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.