Four simple steps to prevent food poisoning

Summer means picnics, buffets, barbecues and outdoor parties – and an increased risk of food poisoning. Getting sick from improperly prepared or stored food is more common and more serious than you might realize. In the United States, food poisoning sends more than 100,000 people to the hospital each year, and it can have long-term health consequences. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, joint/back aches and fatigue.

It is important to make sure that food served at picnics, buffets, barbeques and parties is safe. Four simple steps can help to protect you and your family and friends from food poisoning:

Clean it:

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash kitchen surfaces, cutting boards and utensils with soap and hot water.
  • Wash all raw fruits and vegetables.

Separate it:

  • Don’t allow juices from meat, seafood, poultry or eggs to drip on other foods.
  • Use a separate cutting board and knife for raw meats, seafood and poultry.
  • Use different dishes for raw foods and cooked foods.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, don’t add more food to a dish or platter that already has food on it.
  • Always serve food on clean dishes.

Cook it:

  • Cook foods at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • Cook meat and poultry until the juices run clear.
  • Don’t eat raw eggs or food items made with raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, etc.

Chill it:

  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods should be kept at 40° F or colder and hot foods should be kept at 140° or hotter. Use ice, ice packs, and coolers or chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep foods at the correct temperature.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods quickly.
  • Don’t leave foods and leftovers at room temperature longer than two hours.

Additional resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Minnesota Department of Health Food Safety Center

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