June 5, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald

It's summertime again. Time to think about camping, picnicking and anything to get outdoors. Don't let unsafe food handling practices spoil your fun.

"It's the time of year when the rate of foodborne illness doubles," Joe O'Leary, extension food technologist for the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said. "Most of these problems can be prevented with some common sense."

It's easy to take the focus off of food safety when you're set on having fun. But, paying attention to safe practices will make your fun last a lot longer.

The most important thing to be aware of is the safe handling of meat products. O'Leary recommends refrigerating fresh meats, eggs, dairy products and seafood within a half-hour of purchase. Always thaw and marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter or a picnic table.

"Preventing cross-contamination is an important step to ensure food safety," O'Leary emphasized. "Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria from one food to another food. This is a problem when the contaminated food is considered safe and ready to eat."

An example of cross-contamination is putting cooked hamburgers back on the same plate that held the raw meat. To avoid potential stomach upsets, always put grilled hamburgers and hotdogs on a clean plate.

Other ways to prevent cross-contamination are separating raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator. Also, use one cutting board for raw foods and another for foods that are ready to eat. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 97 percent of all traceable foodborne disease outbreaks result from improper handling and preparation of food. Also, CDC data from 1983 to 1992 confirms the most common practice contributing to foodborne disease outbreaks was improper cooking. Poor personal hygiene of food handlers came in a close second.

Sometimes, when you are outside camping or picnicking, you don't have access to soap and water. Some products are available that claim to be antibacterial or waterless hand soaps. O'Leary said it is always better if you can use soap and water, but the waterless products are better than nothing if that is all you have.

After you've thoroughly grilled meats, make sure you get them into the refrigerator, or a cooler within two hours. Make sure other products such as potato salad, cole slaw, sandwiches, etc. are kept cold.

Following these easy steps will help control food safety problems and help you make the most of summer outings.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee D. Heald (606) 257-9764 
Source: Joe O'Leary (606) 257-5882