Avoiding Cross-Contamination in the Summer Season
It’s grilling season and so families, friends and neighbors gather in backyards and at parks to share food and conversation. Popular favorites for BBQs include grilled cuts of meat, potato and fruit salad as well as grilled vegetables and chips. When you dine communally, you trust that your family member, your best buddy and your neighbor practiced safe food handling in preparation of that potluck dish. Because if they didn’t – you and everyone gathered run the risk of food poisoning. Cross-contamination, i.e. when bacterium, parasites or viruses from one source come in contact with another food source or surface, unintentionally. The transfer of this pathogen can and often does result in food poisoning.
This time of year, in particular, sees an increase in foodborne illnesses. In large part this is due to how we enjoy our food in the warmer weather. Foods can sit out longer in the heat- allowing foodborne illnesses to thrive- foods such as meats, marinades and mayonnaise-based salads. The best intended host can be unaware of the ‘rules’ pertaining to how long things should sit out, what temperature something should chill at, to not let certain foods share a surface, say, fruit, and chicken cut in to cubes for kebobs.
Avoiding Cross-Contamination: There are basic rules to follow that will mitigate circumstances of food poisoning . . .
- Wash well and wash often
- Wash for a minimum of 20 seconds
- Wash with soap and water
- Wash back of hands and in between fingers
- Rinse well and dry with clean cloth
- Keep cutting boards used for meat and other foods separate
- Wash surfaces with soapy, hot water
- Cut bruised areas off of fruit and veggies and rinse with water
- Scrub thicker skinned fruits or veggies with a brush and paper towel dry
- Keep foods at the proper temperature
- Confirm correct temperature for cooking different meats -after cooking keep at 140° minimum
- Do not keep salads such as potato salad at room temperature for more than 2 hours – 1 hour if 90° or hotter out – ideal to keep on ice
- Refrigerate or freeze ‘left-overs’ within 2 hours
- Pay attention to public safety alerts and recalls!
Following these rules, modeling them for others, and teaching new cooks in the kitchen these rules will help keep your summer safe, sunny and delicious and help you and your loved ones in avoiding cross-contamination.