Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning in the Heat of Summer
The summer is just the time for barbecues and picnics. However good the idea may seem, the risk of experiencing gastrointestinal distress increases when you decide to eat outdoors, as germs multiply really fast when exposed to high temperatures. Here is advice for you to keep in mind if it’s grilled veggies or meat devoured during a picnic with your friends that you are dreaming of.
Outdoor dining is a tricky thing, as you become relaxed and are enjoying the warmth of sunlight, but the germs lurking in the pizza and snacks you have brought outdoors are plotting against you. Well, they are just living their life, and there is not much they can do besides multiplying, so no reason to blame them for it.
Still, the germ hazard becomes especially significant if it’s a picnic that awaits you, since you are likely to leave foods sitting out on the table for much longer than they usually do in your kitchen.
Foods normally endure around two hours before they are colonized, if not annexed, by bacteria. They are there all the time, but it’s the heat that promotes their population growth, and when there are too many of them, your digestive tract can stop tolerating it.
Here is what you can do to reduce the risk of food poisoning when dining outdoors.
Tip #1. Timing matters
Depending on what food you have on the table, the time it can stay there and remain safe may vary. Non-acidic foods, like vegetables, grains, your fave potato salad, meat, etc. can sunbathe for as long as one hour. After that, colonies of Salmonella will swarm the food, even if you have mixed the easy-to-multiply-in pasta with a difficult-to-stay-in vinegar.
Bread and acidic foods are not prone to turning into a bacterial redoubt fast, but they should not sit out for too long either.
Tip #2. Cook food right before eating it
If everyone is still playing volleyball, it’s not a good idea to serve the dishes right now. Pop the foods you do not need now in the cooler or leave them in the grill until everyone is ready to devour the meal. (Yes, devour – that should be fast!)
Tip #3. Avoid direct sunlight
When serving the table, place it in a shadowed area or use an umbrella to protect the food from sunlight. The heat from the sun is not enough to keep bacteria at bay, but perfect for providing them with a good environment to multiply.
Tip #4. Wash your hands
Yes, it is obvious, but washing your hands is a must if you want to try to avoid post-picnic adventures on a porcelain horse. Food on the table can be contaminated when touched by unwashed hands, and chances are different germ parties won’t clash.
Let’s be honest – most of us haven’t heard of the 2-hour rule, but it is stated on the FDA’s website, so it must have some scientific evidence behind it. You may have left your leftovers in the heat of your car for several hours for as long as you have been driving, but it doesn’t mean that you are on the safe side. You know, you can ignore traffic safety rules and avoid being hit, but one day it may change.
Some of us can eat foods with mold on it with no consequences (at least with no visible ones), but it does not mean your immune system and gastrointestinal tract approve of it. The overwhelming majority of people let food stay outside of the fridge for several hours, and nothing bad happens, but safety rules are designed to help you avoid health problems, so trying to stick to them – even if not that accurately – might be a good idea.
Serving Up Safe Buffets – fda.gov