Simple Summertime Food Safety
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Packing a picnic? Don't let bacteria spoil the food and the fun. Remember these simple rules to properly prepare, serve and store food to prevent food borne illness.

Keep your food cold starting at the store by keeping a cooler or ice chest in the trunk for transporting perishables. You may also want to purchase perishable food last before going to the picnic and have the cooler in the air conditioned car while in transit. Freezing refilled plastic water and juice containers of different sizes instead of using of freezer packs not only helps keep food cold in the cooler but also provides extra fluids when they melt. Be sure to keep the cooler in the shade with the lid on.

Wash hands often to keep bacteria off food. If no water faucet is available, use disposable wet wipes to clean hands before working with raw meat or poultry. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, "Handwashing is the single most important means for preventing the spread of infection."

Don't cross contaminate by spreading bacteria from raw meat and chicken to other foods. Use clean utensils and dishes for each food whether raw or cooked. If you put a raw steak on the grill with a fork, do not use that same fork to take the cooked barbecued chicken off or you will introduce bacteria to the chicken.

This could be devastating if eaten by a child, and elder person or someone whose immune system may be compromised.

Thoroughly cook everything such as hamburger, pork chops, and ribs until the pink is gone. Cook poultry until there is no red in the joints, and fish until it "flakes" with a fork. Be advised that if you grill the steak rare or medium, some organisms can possibly survive the short cooking times.

Don't use food from dented or damaged containers- it's safer to throw them away than risk food poisoning. Check cans for dents and bulges; jars for leaks or bulging lids, paper packages for tears and stains. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out. Same goes for food left in the danger zone (41E to 140EF) for 4 or more hours.

Check your appliances for proper temperatures. Refrigeratures should be at 40EF or lower and freezers should be set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Also check the gaskets around the doors. If you can pull out a dollar bill from between the door and the appliance, cold air may be leaking out. If temperature rises above 40EF, bacteria will be multiplying at faster rate. Even if you cook the food thoroughly, you can still get sick from the toxins that the bacteria leave behind.