Summer food safety tips

Vegetable skewers, corn on the cob, and meats on a barbeque.

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The changing of the seasons in Manitoba does not only signal a change in wardrobe from winter coats to sleeveless shirts but a change in household management as well. With the higher temperature outside, you’ll need to change some of your habits around the house, especially in the way you store food.

Foods require more care as harmful bacteria grow faster in warm and moist conditions. This can cause food to spoil more quickly. Here are a few basic food safety tips that you can follow:

Storing food

  1. Not more than an hour – keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 4 °C to 60 °C. Harmful bacteria grow quickly in this temperature range. As a rule, never leave food at room temperature for more than an hour on hot summer days.
  2. Chill or freeze– refrigerate or freeze fresh food items immediately after grocery shopping. For leftovers, always check how long they have been in the fridge before reheating and eating. There is a fridge and freezer storage chart on Canada.ca that can guide you. It indicates the correct temperature in which you should store your fresh meat, poultry, fish, cold cuts, leftovers, eggs, dairy and vegetables, and how long you can keep them.
  3. Marinating meat – don’t leave it on the table or counter. Refrigerate or place inside a cooler while marinating. Don’t use leftover marinade that has been used for raw meat on cooked food.

Barbecue time!

  1. Use a cooler – during a barbecue or an outing, use a cooler filled with ice packs to store food. Make sure raw meat products are in sealed containers so that juices won’t leak out and cross-contaminate other items in the cooler. While a full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one, it may be safer to have a separate one for drinks. People may need to open the cooler for drinks more often which will be bad for perishable food (as this will let warm air in). Remember to keep your cooler out of direct sunlight when outdoors.
  2. Avoid cross contamination – cross-contamination is the process by which bacteria or microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance to another. For instance, bacteria from raw meat may leach to vegetables and fruits when they are not kept in sealed containers. Using proper containers, separate cutting boards, utensils, and dishes when storing, preparing and cooking raw and cooked food can prevent this. Always wash your hands as well as your utensils and cooking equipment before handling raw ingredients.
  3. Thaw completely – meats should be thawed completely so that they cook evenly. Thaw meats in the refrigerator not on the counter. You can also microwave defrost, as long as you cook the meat immediately after.
  4. Clean the grill– make sure that your grill is not rusty or grimy. Brush it or use steel wool to keep it shiny. Some also use crumpled aluminum foil. Check the bristles of your barbecue brush. These may get loose and stick to the grill and then transferred to the food.
  5. Use a food thermometer – make sure that your grilled food are properly cooked. Improper heating and preparation of food enables bacteria to survive. Checking out the color of the meat does not always ensure that it is fully cooked and bacteria-free. An easier way to check the internal temperature of cooked foods is to use a digital food thermometer. Print the Safe Internal Cooking Temperatures chart from Canada.ca to have a handy guide when using your food thermometer.

Shopping for food

  1. Buy frozen or refrigerated food last – when grocery shopping, pick up food like meat, fish, poultry, cheeses, or ice cream last. When you get home, store them quickly in your freezer to prevent them from spoiling.
  2. Separate – put raw meat, fish, and poultry in individual bags and keep them separate from vegetables and fruits in your grocery cart and then later, in your grocery bag. It will be ideal if you have a cooler in your car for storing perishables, especially if the travel time from the grocery to your house is considerable.
  3. Take advantage of fresh produce – summer is a great time to take advantage of the many farmers’ markets that usually open during weekends. These sell locally grown produce, meat, fish and dairy. To know when and where the next Farmers’ Market will be open, check the Farmers’ Markets Association of Manitoba Co-Op website. Always check that the fruits and vegetables you buy are free of bruises and blemishes and not wilted.

Four simple steps to remember when handling food: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.

CLEAN – Wash hands and surfaces often. Always wash hands with warm water and soap 20 seconds before and after handling food.
SEPARATE – Don’t cross contaminate.
COOK – Remember to observe the proper internal temperature of cooked foods.
CHILL – Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours. Observe the right temperature for chilling food (below 4°C).

Sources: Seasonal Food Safety, The Government of Canada; Summer and Vacations, Foodsafety.gov; and What can I do to keep my food safe?, Dieticians of Canada. Retrieved and updated April 17, 2018.

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Community Resources

For more resources and links about food safety go to Safe Food Handling Tips at the Canada.ca site.

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