Continued excessive heat across Iowa not only raises concerns about heat-related illnesses, it also makes food-borne illnesses, like salmonella, more likely due to improper food handling. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans that hot weather makes it even more important to ensure food is properly transported, cooked and stored.
IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says especially during warm weather, food safety begins at the grocery store. “When shopping, buy cold foods like meat, poultry and dairy products last, right before checkout. Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store so the food doesn’t sit in a hot car any longer than necessary. You may also want to take a cooler with ice or insulated grocery bags to transport perishables home – especially if your drive home is more than half an hour.” Once home, place cold foods like meat, poultry and dairy products in the refrigerator right away.
A good rule to remember for food safety is to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Whether in your car or on the picnic table, illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours and during the summer heat, that time is cut down to within one hour. When planning on eating outdoors, keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. If using a marinade, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outside. When cooking on the grill, cook the meat thoroughly - then keep it hot until served, either by moving it to the side of the grill rack, or in an oven set at around 200 degrees. Keep cold food cold when outdoors by nesting the serving dishes in bowls of ice, or by keeping the food in a cooler until ready to eat.
No matter what the weather, it’s always important to wash your hands before and after handling food. In addition, always keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean, and always use one plate for raw foods and another for cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination. For more information on hot weather food safety, visit www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Barbecue_Food_Safety/index.asp.