Warm weather brings many opportunities to enjoy outdoor dining with friends and family. The threat of foodborne illness is real and all precautions should be taken to ensure food safety. Below are a few tips to keep you and your guests happy and healthy this year.

Keep Items Refrigerated

Allowing foods to get to and stay at room temperature for an extended period of time allows for the growth of bacteria. Keep as much of the food refrigerated as possible during the preparation. Thaw meats out in the bottom of the refrigerator, rather than setting them on the counter. Keep meats fully wrapped until you are about to prepare and cook them.

Grilling Safety Tips

Thoroughly scrub the grates between use if you plan to barbecue. Pull the meats directly from the refrigerator and take them to the grill. If you have them soaking in a marinade, have the bowl setting inside the refrigerator. Never store and reuse marinade sauces. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature has gotten high enough to kill bacteria. Checking for pinkness is not always effective.

Keep Raw and Cooked Meats Separated

Raw meats are teaming with germs and bacteria. You need to set up areas that are separated enough between raw and cooked meats that there can be no accidental touching. Completely disinfect any surfaces that have held raw meat before placing other items there. Keep a spray bottle handy with half-and-half bleach water to spritz counters that have cleared out. Staying on top of germs is a way to guarantee no one gets a foodborne illness.

Wash Everything

Fruits, vegetables, table and counter surfaces, utensils and hands should all be washed frequently during food preparation. You may be planning to cut the skins off of potatoes or apples, but the knife can transfer any germs and bacteria present on the surface, directly into the meat of the fruit and vegetable.

Watch the Time

Begin using what is called the “two-hour” rule. Place food items in the refrigerator that have been out for two hours. Any items that have been out longer than that should be discarded. Many foodborne illnesses happen due to saving extra potato salad, hot dogs, and hamburgers that have been sitting at room temperature for hours. It is not worth the risk.

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