Whether you’re taking a vacation, going picnicking or simply bringing lunch to work, the summer heat causes bacteria to multiply in your food—to potentially dangerous levels.
Each year, roughly 1 out of 6 Americans (48 million people) becomes ill, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 actually die from foodborne diseases.
These safety tips from the American Dietetic Association/ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety Program may make the difference between a refreshing meal or snack and food poisoning.
Always wash your hands with soap and water during food preparation, especially between tasks (for example, bacteria from raw chicken can contaminate the salad). If you can’t get to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water, pack moist towelettes or a hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
Don’t let food sit out unrefrigerated for more than two hours; in hot weather (above 90°F), the time is reduced to one hour.
Add food and ice packs to this collapsible picnic basket by Picnic At Ascot.
Pack food with ice or a frozen ice pack in an insulated lunch bag or cooler. Drop in a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the temperature remains below 40°F.
In hot weather, transport food in a cooler, packed with ice or ice packs. Keep the cooler in the back seat of an air-conditioned car instead of in the hot trunk.
If you don’t have access to a cooler, try packing frozen juice boxes or bottles of water, for a hydrating refresher that will also help keep the foods around it cool.
If you’re cooking meat to take on the road—hamburgers, hot dogs or chicken breasts, for example—remember to cook them to proper temperatures. Hamburgers should cook to at least 160°F, hot dogs reheated to 160°F and chicken to 165°F.
For a road trip, consider packing easy-to-transport, shelf-stable* foods: single-serve boxes of cereal, tetra-packs of milk and juice, trail mix, popcorn, applesauce, cans of tuna, peanut butter sandwiches, fresh fruit, carrots or celery.
Don’t forget that carry-out and fast foods are also susceptible to food poisoning.
*Shelf stable foods are those that require no refrigeration, except for storing the remainder of the container after the package is opened.