This summer, as you plan to spend time picnicking and eating meals outdoors, U of M public health experts have some advice: be mindful of how long your food has been sitting out. For those who think foodborne illnesses are limited to contaminated or poorly prepared meat, read on.
- A clean workspace –Before you prepare your fruits and vegetables, wash your hands as well as the area on which you will be cutting and assembling your food. Many foodborne illnesses come from cross contamination and it’s important to start with a germ-free workspace.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables – It’s important that any dirt is removed from the outside of the fruit or vegetable before you cut into it. If a knife cuts across unwashed produce, it will drag any dirt or germs with it from the outside, into the part of the food you want to eat. All the sweet sugars in fruit that make them a great treat to eat, also make them a great place for bacteria to grow.
- Keep it cool – The warmer the weather, the faster bacteria will start to grow on produce left sitting out. A cooler is a great way to keep food cool if it will be outside for a while before being eaten. However, if fruits and vegetables will be taken to a picnic with uncooked meat that will be prepared there, it’s important they be carried in separate coolers to avoid the spread of germs through the ice water.
- Properly store food – Once you have finished eating, you should properly store your food and return any uneaten perishables to your refrigerator. If fruits and vegetables have been in the heat for more than two hours, they don’t belong in your fridge and should be disposed of, not consumed.
Stay safe, have fun and have a great summer!