A bout of food poisoning is no fun! It is literally quite wretched. At minimum it can result in diarrhea and vomiting and sometimes can require a hospital stay to replenish the body of fluids through an IV. Although harmful all year round – food can go bad and grow bacteria – it is especially an issue in the summer when temperatures are high and people are neglectful about food that has been left out.
While all people are at risk for food poisoning, as with so many things, the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems get hit the hardest. That is the bad news. The good news is that food poisoning is preventable, which means you needn’t cancel your barbeques and summertime parties.
Storing in the Fridge
Before your big day behind the grill, make sure you are properly storing your meats in your refrigerator. Meats should be properly covered, preferably in zip-lock bags and kept on a metal tray on the bottom-most shelf of the fridge. All other foods should be stored on other shelves. This avoids cross-contamination.
Cook your Food Thoroughly
Who doesn’t love to barbeque meats and in particular hot dogs and hamburgers? Dripping with mustard and ketchup, loaded with onions and your mother’s secret homemade barbeque sauce, nothing says barbeque quite like meat. Most people take great care to ensure meat is cooked properly in their ovens or on their stoves, but sometimes even the master barbequer can turn out meat that is just a little underdone. If the juice coming off your meat is pink – or worse – red, it hasn’t been cooked sufficiently and bacteria could be lurking at every bite. If you have any doubts, use the same thermometer when cooking indoors.
Your Chopping Block
When handling raw meat, and in particular chicken and other poultry, never cut it up on a chopping board and then neglect to wash it before chopping other non-meat foods. At every turn, you need to avoid cross contamination. This means not using the same cooking utensils that are being used for the barbequed ribs and chicken breasts that you use for your ready to eat foods that just need warming up.
At Your Barbeque
Don’t get so busy that you leave food out for too long. All food, even cooked, can grow bacteria. Meats, salads, especially those with mayonnaise, can spoil quickly when left in the hot sun. If it’s become clear that people are finished eating, put food in the refrigerator. It’s easier to pull it back out and warm it up than it is to have to stop your party because someone has retreated to the restroom and is vomiting ceaselessly. This can put a damper on any barbeque and quickly become emergent.
Barbeques are great fun! Who doesn’t love them and they are the hallmark of summer. Don’t put your plans to have them on hold, just practice a few smart tips and yours will be memorable for all the right reasons.