Summer’s here! Time for outdoor picnics and barbeques!

The sizzling sun feels great, but along with the heat comes unwanted guests- harmful bacteria! In summer heat bacteria grow rapidly on protein and prepared foods. In just 1-2 hours in 90 degree heat, just a few bacteria will multiply to thousands!  If these are pathogenic- the type that cause food borne illness – summer fun can quickly turn to summer sickness!

Want to play it safe? Follow these basic grilling and cooler tips to keep food and your family safe this summer!

STEP 1: SMART PACKING

• Use two coolers: pack beverages and fruits in one; meat, protein and other prepared foods in another.

• Pack meat, poultry and prepared foods right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home. Keep the cooler closed until you are ready to eat. Always keep raw meat wrapped tightly; place in the bottom of the cooler surrounded by ice packs. Place containers of prepared food with more ice packs on the top.  This will help prevent meat juices from contaminating prepared foods.

• Keep the cooler cold! Pack the items you’ll use first at the top to avoid keeping the cooler open longer than you need. Remember to use ice packs and plenty of ice to hold food at safe temperatures- below 40°F!

• Find a shady spot to store your cooler!

STEP 2: CLEAN & SEPARATE

• Wash your hands, utensils and platters before and after contact with raw meat and prepared foods.

• Use different, clean platters and utensils for cooked and raw food to prevent cross contamination.

• Clean up and store food right after eating.

STEP 3: TIME TO COOK

• Use your meat thermometer! Cook ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F and all poultry to 165°F. Cooking meat thoroughly will destroy harmful bacteria!

• Serve food on a clean platter once cooked. Cover food with foil or netting to keep flies and dirt from “seasoning” your food!

• Clean up and pack leftovers back into the cooler after eating. Don’t let food sit out in the heat. Discard any food that is left out more than 1-2 hours.

Picnics and barbecues are all about fun, family and friends and good food- Enjoy yourself and remember to keep food and family safe this summer!

For recipes and tips visit; www.eatsmartnewyork.org. Funded by USDA- An equal opportunity employer.

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