With the nicer spring weather, leading into summer, comes more time sharing meals outdoors – and therefore, more time transporting food. Regarding such transportation, unfortunately, an estimated one in seven Americans get sick each year from consuming contaminated food, with children more susceptible to becoming ill than adults.
The COVID-19 pandemic halted to many spring and summer gatherings like picnics, of course, but as we return to life as usual, we may need to refresh ourselves on how to safely purchase, prepare and store food to prevent food-borne illness.
In that light, the following general guidelines address care in food selection, cleanliness, preparation and storage.
First, shop and assess food carefully:
Avoid swollen or damaged cans and other packages – they may be contaminated.
Purchase all foods only from reputable stores and other sources.
Buy only pasteurized milk and milk products.
Taste or smell “prepared” food to verify it’s OK.
Second, be clean:
Don’t prepare food if you have open sores or cuts on your hands or if you’re sick.
Always wash your hands before preparing food, and remind little ones to wash before eating.
Take particular care in preparing raw meat and poultry, and clean any prep surfaces, like countertops and cutting boards, after use with hot, soapy water.
Third, pay attention to details of heat and cold:
Make sure all foods are cooked properly and thoroughly.
Never eat raw or undercooked meat, especially ground beef.
Use a thermometer to measure the doneness of meats.
Finish what you start – never let meat or poultry sit if you’re called away while preparing it.
When reheating food, always make sure to do so completely.
Hot foods should stay hot, and cold foods, cold – never let food sit at room temperature. (Take great care with prepared foods, especially those with mayonnaise or eggs.)
As a final precaution beyond all of the preceding, don’t feed honey to any child less than a year of age in an effort to persuade him or her to accept a rejected food. Why? Well, a toxin from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which lives in soil and dust, can contaminate not only surfaces like carpets and floors but also honey, potentially leading to the rare but serious gastrointestinal condition infant botulism.
For more information, visit usda.gov.