Keep your summer food gatherings fun and safe

Following a few simple food safety tips will make sure your summer parties are fun and memorable for all the right reasons!

With the warm weather here and summer parties upon us, it is important to remember several important safety practices during the different food preparation stages to ensure a safe, fun summer.

Because of the warm temperatures, foods can quickly reach the danger zone, the temperature between 41˚F and 135˚F where illness causing bacteria multiply rapidly. Your refrigerator should be maintained at 40˚F or slightly lower and the freezer should be set for zero degrees. Use a thermometer to check the interior temperature of your refrigerator as it may need to be put on a lower temperature setting in the summertime.

When you purchase foods at the grocery store, keep the raw meat and poultry separated from cooked foods or foods that are eaten raw, such as vegetables or fruit. While transporting the food to your home, keep the perishable items inside the air-conditioned car rather than the trunk. Drive immediately home from the store. If your drive exceeds 30 minutes, bring a cooler with ice and place the perishables in it during the transport. Unload perishable foods from the car first and place them in the refrigerator or freezer immediately.

While preparing your foods for picnicking or grilling, keep in mind simple menus for easy food preparation. One important rule to remember is to keep your cold foods cold and your hot foods hot. This means marinating meats in the refrigerator, nesting vegetable or chip dips in ice and storing all perishable foods in a well-insulated cooler with a lot of ice. Keep all raw meats and their juices separate from other foods and wash any plates and utensils with hot, soapy water before placing cooked meats upon. Do not baste your cooking meats with marinade that was used for raw foods. Cook meats thoroughly until the juices no longer run pink. Use an instant read thermometer to check internal temperature of the food you are cooking. Poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165˚F, ground meat to an internal temperature of 155˚F and roasts of pork, beef or lamb must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145˚F. Keep in mind the importance of washing your hands with warm soapy water before, during and after handling food.

The next important food safety consideration is handling leftovers. Raw or cooked foods at room temperature need to be stored in a refrigerator or cooler within two hours. On a hot day with temperatures exceeding 90˚F, this time decreases to one hour. If you are using a cooler for keeping foods cool, minimize the amount of time perishable foods are outside of the cooler.

By keeping in mind these few simple guidelines, summertime barbeques can be safe and tasty. For more tips on keeping food safe while camping, cooking for crowds or being on the road visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Seasonal Food Safety tip sheets.

For tips on grilling food safely or for hosting a successful food-safe gathering, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

Enjoy the bounty that summers in Michigan provide!

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