The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 128,000 Americans are hospitalized with food poisoning each year. One of Herrera’s responsibilities as safety manager includes making sure Monarch’s staff learns the latest, most up-to-date food safety information year-round.
Herrera realizes that correct food prep and storage may be one of the last things we think about when enjoying meals and company during the summer, however, she reminds us that food safety still needs to be a priority because foodborne illness can be prevented during the warm weather months by following some important safety tips.
The following are Herrera’s top summer food safety tips gathered from a variety of government agencies, leading industry food manufacturers and her own experiences.
Make sure your grill and utensils are clean.
Herrera says most grillers believe that the high heat will kill off any kind of bacteria or germs. That belief is not necessarily true, she warns: “You need to start off with a clean grill. Make sure the grease and charred pieces remaining are removed.”
Keeping utensils separate when handling meats and vegetables is extremely important, too. If picnicking or out at a location where there may not be clean water, remember to bring your own supply and even moist towelettes to clean utensils or supplies.
Separate raw meats from all other foods.
“Meats need to be separated due to the contaminants in their raw form,” Herrera advises. It is necessary for raw meat to be stored at a minimum 40 degrees Fahrenheit until ready to cook, making sure to store refrigerated or in a cooler.
When transferring the raw meat to the grill, Herrera says to use different utensils when handling the uncooked food and eventually cooked pieces: “This is extremely important and one that we don’t often think about.”
After cooking, store foods promptly and correctly.
Herrera said friends and families are guilty of taking advantage of the time to relax and socialize following a meal and tend not to put food away in short order. “Food can sit out for no more than two hours if the temperature is 90 degrees or below,” she notes. “Above 90 degrees, food should only be left out for no more than one hour. To be on the safe side, food should go directly on ice or in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria from taking over.”
Make sure hot food is served hot; and cold food is served cold.
Herrera says this tip might sound simple, but is one that might be the most important food prep advice she could provide. “This tip sounds very simplistic, but if not adhered to, can cause trouble during outdoor dining,” she says. “Keeping food at their optimum temperatures before and after dining is so important and one that will most likely save diners from foodborne illness.”
With a few preparations and attention to detail before outdoor dining events, plans can go smoothly and diners can enjoy summer’s bounty no matter the temperature.