Improve Your Health

Eight Tips to Avoid Foodborne Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 48 million people get sick from foodborne disease every year. This makes it especially important to take extra precautions when planning a summer picnic or barbeque.

Here are eight tips to keep your summer gathering safe from foodborne disease.

  • Avoid thawing meat on the counter overnight – The safest way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. Another option is to cook the meat from a frozen state, although keep in mind this will add additional cooking time.
  • Don’t partially cook meat in advance – A better and safer option is thoroughly cooking the meat at your picnic or barbeque site.
  • Place perishable foods in a cooler packed with plenty of ice – Remember, the fuller your cooler, the cooler things will stay. To avoid cross-contamination, pack raw meat items in a separate cooler from veggies, fruits and salads.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching food items – If running water isn’t available, use hand sanitizer or disposable wet wipes.
  • Use a food thermometer to determine when things are done – Just because food looks done on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s fully cooked on the inside. Avoid the guessing game and use a food thermometer to make sure food reaches a safe internal temperature. Cook meat to the following temperatures.
    • Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal – 145 degrees
    • Fish – 145 degrees
    • Hamburgers and other ground beef – 160 degrees
    • All poultry and pre-cooked meats (like hot dogs) – 165 degrees
  • Serve cooked food items on a clean platter – Avoid using the same dishes and utensils for both raw and cooked foods. Always use a clean plate for cooked items.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot – Keep cold foods in a cooler until it’s time to eat. Return any cold food to a cooler or fridge within two hours. If it’s hotter than 90 degrees, only keep food out for an hour, and, if possible, keep food in the shade.
  • Unpack leftovers immediately after returning home – Place meat and other perishable items in the refrigerator. If they are warm, it’s best to toss them.

If you get sick after a summer gathering, watch for symptoms of dehydration. Most people get better on their own within a few days but you’ll need to make sure you take in enough fluids. Drinking water, Gatorade or Pedialyte should help. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating food for the first few hours as it can further upset your stomach.

To learn more about food safety, talk to a personal doctor. To find a personal doctor near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.