Few things are as great as cooking outdoors or enjoying a picnic on a beautiful day, but when the weather warms up, so does the chance of contracting a foodborne illness. 

The number of foodborne illness cases increases during summertime, mainly due to two factors. First being foodborne bacteria multiplies faster in warmer climates and the second being the increase in preparing food outdoors can make safe food handling more difficult than a traditional kitchen.

The next question is “what can you do to prevent foodborne illnesses?”, to which the answer is a number of different precautionary measures can help. With the following four steps, you can mitigate your chances of contracting a foodborne illness during warmer months. 

Wash Your Hands

Unwashed or improperly washed hands can be the breeding ground of germs and bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Ensure you are using warm to hot water with soap to wash your hands before and after handling food, pets, using the restroom, or changing diapers. 

Effectively washing hands should take about 20 seconds, or singing the “happy birthday” song twice!

Sanitize Surfaces

Another important method of keeping foodborne illnesses at bay is to keep surfaces clean. Properly sanitize plates, pans, cooking utensils, and trays if they have come into contact with raw food such as raw meat, poultry, or fish. Surfaces can be properly cleansed by using hot soapy water!

Cross contaminating food during preparation is one of the prime causes of foodborne illnesses. If you are packing raw meat, poultry, or seafood, ensure it is packed separately and securely to ensure they do not come into contact with other food. 

Cook Thoroughly

The only way to accurately determine if food has been properly cooked at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to utilize a food thermometer. Avoid partial cooking at all costs as this can create the ultimate breeding ground for bacteria that cannot be eliminated. 

Keep it Cold

“Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within two hours or 1 hour if the temperature outside is 90°F or hotter,” recommends Jory Lange, a food safety lawyer who has handled dozens of salmonella lawsuits. If you are somewhere outside, consider bringing an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice or ice packs and store somewhere out of direct sunlight. 

Restaurants & Leftovers

Restaurants are not immune to foodborne illnesses during summertime. Wherever food is prepared or served, infections can happen. 

Most recently in summer salmonella outbreak news, Long Beach restaurant Brixx & Barley had a potential salmonella outbreak that affected more than twelve patrons. Sun View Grocery also had an outbreak in their deli counter that affected at least four people. For every person with a confirmed salmonella illness, there are about 30 more people with Salmonella illnesses that are not reported. 

If you are questioning whether or not to toss food, don’t take a gamble on your health and instead, play it safe. Throw out food you unsure about, particularly if it has been out for more than two hours (or one hour at 90°F or hotter).

Tips to Take Out

While the chances of foodborne illnesses rise as the temperature heats up, the dangers of foodborne illnesses lurk throughout the year. By using these four tips for food preparation and storage, you can help fight off foodborne illnesses whatever the climate!