Summer food safety tips
The risk of food poisoning increases during the summer because harmful bacteria grow quickly in warm, moist conditions.
Ensuring the safety of food can be challenging this time of year because temperatures are warmer and we often cook outdoors during picnics, barbecues, and camping trips.
Here are some outdoor food safety tips to help keep you and your family safe from food poisoning during the summer.
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- Don't keep food at room temperature for more than one hour on hot summer days.
- Keep perishable foods cold. Use a cooler filled with ice packs to store your food on the go. The temperature inside the cooler should be at or below 4°C (40°F).
- Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often. Opening the cooler lets cold air out and warm air in. Using separate coolers for food and drinks will keep the food colder for longer because the cooler won't be opened as often.
- Marinate meat in the refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice--not on the counter. If you are using marinade to baste cooked meat or as a dipping sauce, make sure it hasn't come into contact with uncooked meat.
Always remember to keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Harmful bacteria can grow in as little as two hours in this temperature range.
- Keep your raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods to avoid spreading harmful bacteria. Using containers or re-sealable plastic bags will help prevent leaks.
- Put raw meat, poultry, and seafood at the bottom of the cooler to keep juices from dripping onto other foods.
Washing your hands and following proper cleaning techniques can help you avoid cross-contamination and prevent food poisoning.
Follow the same washing instructions outdoors as you do at home:
- Use clean water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, dinnerware, countertops, and cutting boards before and after use.
- Sanitize cooking equipment, utensils, and work surfaces with a mild bleach solution.
- Rinse with fresh water and air dry.
Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling food.
- Bacteria are killed by heat. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood must be cooked to a safe internal temperature to eliminate harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Use a digital food thermometer to check the temperature.
- Use a clean plate when taking food off the grill. Never put ready-to-eat or cooked food on a plate that was used for raw meat, poultry or seafood--wash the plate first. Keeping several sets of clean utensils, cutting boards, and plates on hand will help you prevent cross-contamination.
Colour isn't a reliable sign that meat is safe to eat. Meat can turn brown before all the bacteria are killed, so use a digital food thermometer to be sure.
- Check the temperature of meat that you are cooking on the barbecue by taking it off the grill and placing it on a clean plate.
- Insert the digital food thermometer through the thickest part of the meat. If you are cooking several pieces of meat, poultry, or seafood, make sure to check the internal temperature of the thickest pieces because food can cook unevenly.
- For hamburgers, insert the digital food thermometer through the side of the patty, all the way to the middle. Make sure to check each patty.
- Always clean your digital food thermometer in warm, soapy water between temperature readings to avoid cross-contamination.
- Cool food quickly in shallow containers. On hot summer days, don't keep food at room temperature for more than one hour.
What the Government of Canada does to protect you
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.
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