Summer food safety tips

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

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The shift from spring to summer means warmer temperatures for us. This also means that you’ll need to change your household management, particularly when it comes to handling food. Food items will need more care as harmful bacteria grow faster in warm and moist conditions. This makes them spoil quicker.

Storing food

  1. Don’t leave food out – 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. The fridge and freezer storage chart indicates the correct temperature to store fresh meat, poultry, fish, cold cuts, leftovers, eggs, dairy and produce. It will also tell you how long you can keep these items in the fridge.
  3. Marinating meat – Don’t leave meat on the table as it marinates. Refrigerate or place it inside a cooler. Never use uncooked marinade as sauce for cooked food.

Barbecue time!

  1. Use a cooler – 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 contaminate other items in the cooler. It will be safer to have a separate cooler for drinks because people may need to open it more often. All the warm air going in will be bad if you’re keeping perishable food. Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight when outdoors.
  2. Avoid cross contamination – Cross-contamination is when bacteria or microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance to another. For instance, bacteria from raw meat may transfer to vegetables and fruits when they are not kept in sealed containers or when you use the same utensil to handle raw and cooked food. To prevent this, use containers that can be sealed properly. When cooking, use separate cutting boards, utensils and dishes for raw food and a different set for cooked food. Always wash your hands, utensils and cooking equipment thoroughly before handling raw ingredients.
  3. Thaw completely – Frozen meat should be thawed completely so that it can cook evenly. Thaw meat in the refrigerator not on the counter. You can also use your microwave but you should cook the meat immediately after defrosting.
  4. Clean the grill– Rust and grime can accumulate on your grill when it’s not in use. Clean it with a brush, steel wool or crumpled aluminum foil. Be careful when using a brush – the bristles may get loose and stick to the grill. These metal parts may then be transferred to food.
  5. Use a food thermometer – The color of the meat is not a good indicator that it is fully cooked and bacteria-free. Use a digital food thermometer to make sure. Print the Safe Internal Cooking Temperatures chart and post it in your kitchen to have a handy guide.

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 them – Put raw meat, fish and poultry in individual bags and keep them separate from vegetables and fruits 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 long.
  3. Take advantage of fresh produce – Summer is a great time to get fresh fruits and vegetables. You can see them at major supermarkets or at farmers’ markets in Manitoba. Owing to the pandemic, some farmer’s markets are closed, but they may offer online service (orders are for pick-up or shipping). Check the Farmers’ Markets Association of Manitoba Co-Op website.
  4. Safe shopping – Catching the coronavirus is an ongoing concern for all of us. Continue to follow physical distancing and sanitation guidelines. Read Healthy grocery shopping habits to protect yourself (and your family) from the virus for more tips.

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

CLEAN – Wash hands and surfaces often. Always wash your 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 two hours. Observe the right temperature for chilling food (below 4°C).
Article updated June 21, 2021.
Sources: Seasonal Food Safety, The Government of Canada; Summer and Vacations,; 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 site.

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