Summer presents a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family around the grill or at a picnic. Preparing and storing food for outdoor summer events requires special precautions to ensure that food is safe to eat.
Start off your meal right by always washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. It is important to wash both before and after handling food to help avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when germs from one type of food, like raw chicken, get on another type of food, like veggies for salad. When taking food off the grill, use a clean plate. Do not put cooked food items back on the same plates that were used for raw food, unless they have been washed with hot water and soap first.
Another way to keep from cross-contaminating your food is to avoid reusing sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry. If you want to reuse marinades as sauce for cooked food, be sure to boil it first or set aside a portion of the unused marinade to use later as a sauce. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that food on the grill reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while large cuts of beef or pork, such as roasts, steaks, and chops may be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare or to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
In hot weather above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, like we have been experiencing here in Northern Nevada, perishable foods should never sit out for more than an hour before going back in the refrigerator or cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. Store cold drinks in a separate cooler from foods that need to stay cold. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold. Also, this will keep drinks from coming in contact with raw foods. To learn more about safe food handling, visit www.fightbac.org.
Temporary event permits are required for any vendor preparing food at a special event. If you are unsure if a food vendor is operating legally, look for a posted Health Department permit. For questions regarding temporary food permits, contact Carson City Health and Human Services.
For additional resources and information about Carson City Health and Human Services programs and services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter at @CCHealthEd, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.