Cooking and Summer Heat!

With summer weather, comes a greater risk of food borne illness.  Warmth and humidity are great for bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella to multiply to dangerous levels.  If food is not handled safely, BBQs and picnics can make people sick.

There are some basic steps you can take to protect your family.

The first one is to Clean: Wash your hands and work surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria
Wash hands with soap and water before handling food and after handling raw meat or poultry, or even just packages of raw meat. Hand sanitizer doesn’t do a good job when your hands are dirty: they have to already look clean for it to work! In a pinch, moist towelettes followed by hand sanitizer can work.
Your counters and cutting boards can harbour bacteria: wash those items with soap and water. Next wipe with a weak bleach solution (1/4 tsp bleach in 2 cups of water), that you let sit on the item for about 1 minute.
Veggies and fruit need a good rinse under the tap, since you can’t see or smell the bacteria on them.

The second step is to Separate - Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination
You don’t want raw meat juices flowing onto other things. In the fridge keep meat at the bottom so it can’t drip onto other food.  If you are storing meat in a cooler, keep it well wrapped or in a separate cooler.  
If you carry the raw meat out to the BBQ on a plate, use a clean plate to carry the cooked meat back in. An extra plate to wash can save a world of trouble. Don’t depend on just wiping a used plate with a paper towel to do the job!
Since I can't defrost or store raw meat at the bottom of my fridge, I keep it in a bowl or dish to collect the raw meat juice.

The third step is to Cook- make sure you kill the harmful bacteria by properly cooking food.
It turns out that colour is not a reliable indicator of whether the food is cooked.  Hamburger for example can look brown even though it’s not cooked to the right temperature. Using a food probe thermometer can help you ensure that meats are cooked to the right temperature.  The thermometer itself needs to be cleaned between uses as well.

Chill out! Keeping food cold is the final step. Keep cold food cold by thawing meat in the fridge on the bottom shelf, not on the counter.
A picnic cooler must keep food at or below 40 C. Never leave perishable food that is normally kept in the fridge out for more than 2 hours. Leftovers should be put back in a cooler quickly. If you are in doubt about eating any food, throw it out. Better safe than sorry.

Have a healthy summer. Visit for more info, links and videos. 

Dan Singleton
Public Health Inspector