Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to Food Safety at Home. This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Im your host for this segment. With me today is Gwen Hyland, technical information specialist from FSIS Food Safety Education Staff. Were talking about why foodborne illnesses increase in the summer and how you can keep from becoming ill.
Hello Gwen, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Kathy.
Do foodborne illnesses also known as food poisoning-- increase during the summer months?
Yes, foodborne illnesses do tend to increase during the warmer months for two reasons: natural causes and people. Let me talk about the natural causes first. Bacteria are a natural part of the environment. Theyre everywhere in the soil, air, water, and in and on the bodies of people and animals. Bacteria multiply faster in warm, summer months, especially at temperatures between ninety and one hundred ten degrees Fahrenheit.
Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food to large numbers. When this happens, someone could get sick from eating this food.
The second reason is people. During the summer months, theres an upswing in foodborne illnesses because outside activities increase. More people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and on camping trips and the safety controls that a kitchen provides, such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities are usually not available.
How can people protect themselves from foodborne illness in warmer weather and still enjoy picnics and other outdoor events?
By following the four simple steps of USDA's "Be Food Safe" campaign. As long as they remember Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, they should be safe from foodborne illness.
.Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill: That's catchy. Can you explain each one?
I'd love to. The first step is CLEAN: Keep things clean by washing hands and surfaces often.
Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness.
Step two is Separate: Don't Cross-Contaminate.
- Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.
- When eating away from home, find out if there's a source of safe water for drinking and washing hands. If not, bring water for washing hands and cleaning food preparation surfaces, or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels.
Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food can also contribute to foodborne illness.
Remember: the juices of the raw meat should never touch the cooked meat!
- When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely to keep their juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food.
- Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for perishable or cooked food.
Ok, we have Clean and Separate: What about Cook?
The third is Cook: Cook all meat and poultry to safe temperatures. Food is safely cooked when it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
Take a food thermometer to your outing and check the temperature of the meat or poultry by inserting it into the thickest portion. If it has reached the USDAs recommended temperature, it should be safe to eat.
That brings us to Chill.
Keeping cold food cold is important. Both raw and cooked meat and poultry should never be kept out at room or outdoor temperatures for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is over ninety degrees Fahrenheit).
- Cold perishables like luncheon meats, or potato salad, should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water.
- Keep the cooler in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible.
- If you are unable to take a cooler, pack only foods that are safe without refrigeration, such as fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, or peanut butter and crackers.
Is it safe to keep leftover from your outdoor events?
Perishable leftovers will be safe if kept on ice. If they are out of refrigeration for more than two hours, or theres not enough ice to keep the leftovers at forty degrees Fahrenheit or below, discard them.
You can learn more about preventing summertime foodborne illness, and find USDAs recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for cooking meat and poultry, by visiting the FSIS Web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative Ask Karen at
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. Thats 1-888-674-6854.
Weve been talking to Gwen Hyland, from FSIS Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Gwen, for explaining why foodborne illness can increase during warmer months. Im Kathy Bernard. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Food Safety at Home. And remember, Be Food Safe.
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.