By Meron Tesfai 

Summer is right around the corner! Barbecues, picnics, cookouts, and parties are some of the best ways to enjoy the weather with friends and family.  However, we would like to remind you that as temperatures rise so do your chances of getting sick from contaminated food.

You may be cooking food away from a safe source of water to wash hands,  food, and utensils, so it is especially important to practice safe food handling when preparing and storing foods like steak, chicken, fish and egg products.

Remember four simple rules when cooking this summer: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill

1. Clean!

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds (time it by singing the happy birthday song twice) before and after handling food.
  • Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before cooking, packing, or eating.
  • Clean all utensils to be used for cooking with soap and hot water. 

2. Separate!

  • Do not reuse marinade that you used for raw foods on cooked foods. Always marinate in the refrigerator.
  • Do not put cooked foods on the same plate as raw foods.
  • Do not reuse utensils that have touched raw foods unless you are able to wash them with soap and hot water.
  • Keep raw meat, seafood and chicken away from other foods and wrapped properly to keep juices from contaminating other foods.

3. Cook!

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure food is at a safe internal temperature, for info on temperature rates for various foods, click here.
  • Make sure meat is fully cooked.
    • Hamburger meat should be cooked to 160°F.
    • Steaks should be 145°F for medium rare and 160°F for medium.
    • Chicken should reach a temperature of 165°F.
    • Fish should cook to 145°F or until it is opaque and separates easily.
    • Shellfish should be closed tightly before cooking and cooked until their shells open.
  • Keep hot food hot by placing it on the grill rack.

4. Chill!

  • In hot weather between 40°F- 90°F, food should not be outside for more than 2 hours.
  • In weather of 90°F or more, food should never be left out for more than an hour.
  • Refrigerate leftover and unused portions promptly.
  • Keep your cooler full to maintain cold temperatures, keep it out of the sun and limit the number of times you open it.
  • Keep cold foods cold and stored at 40°F or below to prevent the growth of bacteria.
    • Foods can be placed on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice.

For more information about food safety and food borne illnesses, please visit our foodborne illness information page. The site also features information on food safety in Cantonese, Haitian Creole, Spanish and Portuguese.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Meron Tesfai is a project manager in the Infectious Disease Bureau’s Education and Outreach Office. She loves to travel, enjoys being in the outdoors and hopes to go camping this summer!