by Debra Wyatt
(last updated June 28, 2010)
The summer is a wonderful time that we typically use for playing and enjoying the outdoors; and what is more fun than playing at the beach or the park and bringing your favorite foods along? While we are enjoying the outdoors we need to make sure that our food stays safe. If we don't take proper care of our food it is really easy to get "food poisoning". In fact it can be downright dangerous without taking the proper steps to secure that our cold food stays cold.
Start your fun the right way, especially when you are handling food. You really don't want to bring bacteria with you. The best way to avoid doing this is to start out clean, and to keep things that way. Begin your food preparation with clean hands, a clean work area, and clean utensils. Be sure that when it is time to eat make sure that all hands are clean. If traveling, it helps to bring along supplies to clean hands.
When handling meat you need to be careful not to cross-contaminate. A prime source of food-borne illness comes from when meat get cross-contaminated. If grilling outdoors be sure to cook your food thoroughly. The best way to be sure that the food is cooked thoroughly is to use a thermometer.
Keep any perishable foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this would be food such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish. It is best to store these foods in an insulated cooler, with enough ice to keep the food below temperature for the entire trip. It helps to cook the food far enough in advance for the food to cool down in the refrigerator before placing the food items into the cooler. After eating, put any perishable food that is leftover should be placed back into the cooler.
When it comes to food there is an unwritten rule that applies to food and the heat. It is a two hour rule that applies to perishable foods. Perishable foods should never be left out longer than two hours, and only one hour if it is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Any food that is left out longer than this time should be discarded; it is no longer safe to eat.
When you get home if there is any ice left in the cooler, and you took all precautions of not leaving the food out longer than an hour, then the food will be okay to save and place in the refrigerator. If there is no ice left in the cooler, then be safe and discard the food.
When going to the beach, it helps to take along some food that does not require any refrigeration. You will want to keep the perishables in a cooler separate from the drinks. People usually will be getting into the drinks more often than the food cooler. This way it keeps the cooler containing the food cooler, longer. Another great way to keep food in the cooler stay cool is to dig a hole in the sand and cover the cooler about half way up, and then place a beach umbrella over the top of the cooler.
When hiking the best thing to keep food safe is to pack items of food that doesn't require any type of cooling. Foods that work great would be items like jerky, dried meat, peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruits, vegetables, dried soups, bread and crackers, etc.
When serving food outdoors at home, try to keep the food in the refrigerator as long as possible. When it comes time to serve the food at home try serving perishable food on a tray or bowl that is sitting on top of ice. It will help to keep the food at a safe temperature longer. Still to be safe, stay within the two hour rule.
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