top view of a cooler filled with various foods

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Summer food safety

top view of a cooler filled with various foods

As we move into the summer months, people will be eating and grilling outside. Now is a good time to think about how to keep all that delicious food safe to eat. The bacteria that cause foodborne illness thrive in summertime and multiply quickly in warm temperatures. You might already be familiar with most of these tips, but it’s always good to refresh. Here are some of the safe ways to handle food outside:

Wash your hands. This is number one of course! We all became better hand washers during COVID, and it remains a good first rule. Wash in running water with soap and lather for 20 seconds, rinse and dry. No running water? Use wipes or hand sanitizer that have at least 60% alcohol.

Store perishable foods safely. Use coolers or insulated containers with cold sources. This can be ice or frozen gel packs. You can also freeze bottles of water or iced tea to use as your cold source. Keep coolers out of the sun and be mindful of how often you open them! Full coolers keep perishables cold and safe longer. You can use insulated bags if you don’t have a full cooler. 

Keep cold and hot foods at the right temperatures. This is the range between 40 and 140 degrees. Cold foods under 40 and hot foods at least 140. Cold foods of course should be in coolers and hot foods on the grill, chafing dish, warming tray or in the slow cooker. Bring along an instant read thermometer to make sure your food stays outside of the “Danger Zone”.

Follow the two-hour rule. Foods that are kept at the right temperature or don’t sit out for more than 2 hours are safe to keep. Other foods should be considered unsafe and disposed of. It’s not worth it to save a little bit of food that could make you or your family sick. Remember the golden rule: When in doubt, throw it out!

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago