Guidelines for avoiding food poisoning this summer.
Don’t let food poisoning spoil your summertime fun! Susan Bowerman, director of nutrition training at Herbalife, gives us some tips for keeping foods safe during warm weather.
Nothing says summer quite like outdoor picnics, potlucks, and braais. But nothing spoils a picnic more quickly than unwelcome guests – and I’m not talking about party crashers. The other ‘unwelcome guests’ come in the form of food-borne bacteria that can multiply quickly at hot summertime temperatures, and make your picnic food risky to eat.
Did you know?
The bacteria in foods that can make you sick grow quickly at room temperature – and even faster when the thermometer climbs to 32°C or so. Keeping food cold discourages the bacteria from growing – and cooking food destroys them – so the most basic rule is this: keep hot food hot, and keep cold food cold.
- Marinate raw meat, put it in a tightly sealed plastic container or plastic food storage bag, and keep it separated from any ready-to-eat foods in your cooler to avoid raw meat juices dripping on them.
- Pack your cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs to keep everything cold.
- When braaing, once you’re ready to serve food off the grill, check thick foods like bone-in chicken pieces to make sure they’ve cooked all the way through. It may cook quickly on the outside but still be raw on the inside.
- If you have a few hours before a braai, partially cook chicken pieces in the microwave, marinate them in a plastic food storage bag, and refrigerate them. Since the chicken is partially cooked, it takes less time to finish it on the grill, it cooks more evenly, and is less likely to be dry.
- Once your fish, meat or poultry comes off the grill, it might be tempting to dunk it back in the marinade – but don’t. The marinade has been in contact with raw meat and could have harmful bacteria.
The 2-2-4 rule
When it comes to leftovers, an easy way to remember food storage guidelines is: two hours, two inches, four days – the’2-2-4 rule’.
- Two hours is how long food can safely stay at room temperature after you’ve taken it out of the oven or off the grill – or, in the case of cold food, how long it can safely stay out of the refrigerator. If the outdoor temperature is higher than 32˚C, the limit drops to one hour. Food should be refrigerated or frozen thereafter.
- The two-inch rule means you should store leftover foods in shallow containers – no more than two inches thick – so they can cool evenly and quickly.
- Eat your refrigerated leftovers within four days, or throw them away.