Well the barbecue season is in full swing and whether it is a family get together, summer community picnic or just a Saturday night meal at home, being able to cook and eat outside is a short-lived pleasure for us in Nova Scotia. Here are some basic food safety guidelines from the Healthy Canadians website for cooking , storing and serving food outdoors. Because harmful bacteria grow quickly in warm, moist conditions following these guidelines will greatly reduce the risk of illness and we can enjoy our summer plans.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool food quickly in shallow containers. On hot summer days, don't keep food at room temperature for more than one hour.
For more information on food safety and summer food safety in particular click here -- and bring on the BBQ!
--Patricia Milner, Head of Reference Services