A year-round food safety guide to help keep yourself and your guests safe while entertaining.
Summer's here - the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors with backyard barbecues and buffets! As you enjoy warm weather feasts, use these tips for keeping the invisible enemy (a.k.a. foodborne bacteria) at bay.
Preventing foodborne illness is easy as...
- Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Separate — Don't cross-contaminate.
- Cook — Cook to proper temperatures.
- Chill — Refrigerate promptly.
For more information about the 4 Simple Steps to Food Safety, see Lifelong Food Safety.
Prevent the S-p-r-e-a-d... of Bacteria
During your outdoor grilling celebrations, it's important to handle raw meat, poultry, and seafood safely to prevent the spread of bacteria. Here's how:
- Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, refrigerator, and while preparing and handling foods at home. Also, consider placing these raw foods inside plastic bags in your grocery shopping cart to keep the juices contained.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. If possible, use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another one for fresh fruits and vegetables. Wash cutting boards thoroughly with soap and hot water between uses.
- Place cooked food on a clean plate for serving. If cooked food is placed on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood, bacteria from the raw food could contaminate the cooked food.
- Marinades used on raw meat, poultry, or seafood can contain harmful bacteria. Don't reuse these marinades on cooked foods, unless you boil them before applying.
Serving up seafood at an outdoor buffet? Here's how to keep seafood safe:
Finfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F (63° C). When a food thermometer is not available or appropriate, follow these tips to determine when seafood is done.
- Cook fish until it's opaque (milky white) and flakes with a fork.
- Cook shrimp, lobster, and scallops until they reach their appropriate color. The flesh of shrimp and lobster should be an opaque (milky white) color. Scallops should be opaque (milky white) and firm.
- Cook clams, mussels, and oysters until their shells open. This means that they are done. Throw away the ones that didn't open.
- Shucked clams and shucked oysters are fully cooked when they are opaque (milky white) and firm.
Attention Pregnant Women - Don't Eat Raw Fish
Raw fish (such as sushi or sashimi) or foods made with raw fish are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than foods made from cooked fish.
To keep you and your baby safe, avoid eating raw or undercooked finfish or shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops).
Be Aware of Methylmercury
Avoid eating swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. These fish can contain high levels of methylmercury, a metal that can be harmful to your unborn baby.
It's okay to eat other cooked fish/seafood as long as a variety of other kinds are selected during pregnancy or while a woman is trying to become pregnant. You can choose shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish, or farm-raised fish. You can safely eat 12 ounces per week of a variety of cooked fish. A typical serving size of fish is from three to six ounces. Of course, if your serving sizes are smaller, you can eat fish more frequently. For more information, see Methylmercury.
Keep Hot Foods Hot
On a buffet table, hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 140° F (71° C) or warmer. Keep foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays.
Hot Off the Grill!
Remember that heating foods to the right temperature for the proper amount of time kills harmful bacteria. So, when serving meat and poultry at an outdoor barbecue, cook these foods to safe internal temperatures. And, always use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperatures of these foods.
- Cook ground beef to 160°F (71°C).
- Cook chicken breasts to 165°F (74°C).
- Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb roasts and chops to at least 145°F (63°C), with a 3 minute rest time.
Keep Cold Foods Cold
On a buffet table, cold foods should be kept at 40° F (4° C) or colder.
If you're serving shrimp cocktail, serve it chilled on a bed of ice. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
Moms-to-Be: Be Sure to Do This
Grill hot dogs until steaming hot. Ready-to-eat foods like hot dogs can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can be harmful to you and your unborn baby. For more information, see Listeria.
Remember the 2-Hour Rule
Discard food left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. On a hot day (90° F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
Have fun this summer!