Poison control experts have advice on how to avoid food poisoning picnics.
Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for catastrophe, says Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Don’t prepare food if you have any kind of respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of becoming ill. No matter how busy your kitchen gets during the holidays, always remember the risks of improper handling food.
Food poisoning peaks within the summer, as a result of hotter temperatures, permit foodborne germs to multiply quickly. It’s important to remember the danger zone as it pertains to food safety: The risk of food poisoning increases, says Calello. “The effects of the gastrointestinal disorder will happen between a number of hours to a number of days when ingestion”. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever.”
Periodically check pantries, refrigerators, and freezers to make sure they don’t contain any recalled foods linked to contamination and outbreaks. Food contamination is a real concern, not only for seafood and meat products but also for vegetables and fresh fruits.
Since foods can become contaminated at any point from the harvest to table process, remember to follow basic food safety practices when preparing, cooking, and storing foods:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after preparing foods.
- When you are shopping, always pick up meat, seafood or poultry right before checking out and to keep these items separate from other items in your cart.
- Wash vegetables and fruits well and keep them from touching any utensils or surfaces that were exposed to raw meat.
- Keep poultry and meat in the fridge or a cooler until you are ready to start cooking.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat is cooked all the way, to a temperature hot enough to kill harmful bacteria and germs.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions and put them in covered shallow containers this allows the food to cool properly to prevent bacteria from growing.
- Put all food, especially hot dishes, meat/poultry/seafood, salads, or items containing mayonnaise, into the fridge within two hours of cooking, or within one hour if the temperature is 90°F or above.
- Avoid eating raw cookie dough, bread batter, or cake/brownie mixes as it contains raw ingredients that may be contaminated with a variety of harmful germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites): E. coli from the flour and salmonella from eggs. (Baked/cooked goods are safe to eat because the high temperatures in the cooking process kill bacteria.)