My Top Three Tips to Keep your Food Safe this Summer
What does your summer look like as we transition from the covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions to venturing out? If you’re like me, you’re ready to get back out there full throttle and interact with friends, family, and colleagues. During this change period, we can’t forget about food safety. As a health professional who has taught food safety for over a decade from the farm to retail, let’s explore my top three tips to keep your food safe this summer.
Cook and Chill
We won’t be attending and eating at large food festivals or concerts yet, however, you may be making dishes for a number of people for that BBQ, pool party, picnic or road trip.
Cook your food to recommended safe internal temperatures because coronaviruses are killed by cooking temperatures. If you’re taking a fully cooked dish, make sure you cool it or freeze it before transferring it into a cooler with ice packs.
Ensure all food is chilled to 4°C (40°F) or lower and is stored in sealed containers to prevent cross-contamination (raw foods should not be packed with cooked/ready to eat foods). If you plan on taking any road trips this summer, make sure you have sealable containers, ice packs and coolers to safely transport your favourite summertime foods. To decrease microorganisms from growing, ensure food is not in the temperature danger zone of 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F) for more than 4 hours. Remember, don’t let any food deliveries linger outside your front door in the summer heat!
Practice Good Personal Hygiene
Earlier in my career, I spent a decade as a Food Safety and HACCP facilitator training the food industry in standard operating procedures and critical control points which included personal hygiene practices. During one of the training sessions in the late 1990s, I researched that norovirus was also known termed “cruise ship virus”. This brought to light that businesses can put in several food safety measures like disinfecting food contact surfaces; however, both their staff and customers must be diligent in practising proper hygiene protocols to decrease the risk of spreading microorganisms.
This summer, we won’t be rushing back to the all-you-can-eat buffets or sharing a platter of wings with 25 people we don’t know; however, you may be making dishes for a number of people a that BBQ, pool party or picnic over the next few months. Proper handwashing is the simplest behaviour to protect yourself and the people around you, from not only the covid-19 virus, but other germs and contamination.
Wash Fruits and Veggies
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy many fruits and vegetables. Before and after washing and prepping fresh produce, make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. For all fruit and veggies, wash them with running water and scrub them with a clean brush to remove all dirt and debris. Dry off the excess water with a clean paper towel. I don’t recommend soap or packaged fruit and vegetable cleaners. They are not more effective at removing surface microorganisms from fresh produce than using running water and mechanical action.
Remember to cut away damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Even if you don’t plan on eating the skin, it’s still important to wash first, so dirt and microorganisms are not transferred from the surface to the inside when peeling or cutting.
Summer Food Safety Bottom Line
The last thing you want in the beautiful summer is to become ill due to improper food safety practices. Remember my top three tips to keep your food safe this summer and enjoy all those long-awaited outside summer events!