Summer Food Safety

The first thing people learn about me is I LOVE FOOD! I think I really missed my calling. I’m pretty sure I should have been a food critic, but I think you have to go to school for that! My favorite food season, if that’s a thing, would have to be summertime! BBQ, pasta salads, dips and chips… you know, pretty much everything you’d need for a cookout or get together. Like many people, my family has gatherings all throughout the summer. Also like many people, we’ve developed some bad habits when it comes to food handling. There are ways to handle food properly such as times for food to remain at outside temperatures, items to always stay covered, as well as foods with certain ingredients which should be eaten immediately after being made.

Here are a few tips on how to have fun while ensuring no one leaves with food poisoning!


Indispensable items for a safe barbecue.

  • Food thermometer
  • Several coolers for beverages, raw meats, poultry, seafood, cooked foods and raw produce
  • Ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
  • Jug of water, soap, and paper towels for washing hands
  • Enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
  • Foil or other wrap for leftovers


I never notice hand washing stations at most outside functions. Normally, I head to a restroom before the food is displayed but rarely several times after. Sanitizer options are an awesome tool. Items like a clean source of water, soap, paper towels or sanitized wipes are great at the beginning of the food line. 


Give your meat proper time to thaw in the refrigerator. 24 hours prior to beginning your cookout is perfect. However, if you are pressed for time, submerge your sealed, leak-proof, plastic bag of meat in cold tap water, ensuring to change the water every 30 minutes. Marinate in the refrigerator, saving a portion of marinade in a separate container to use as sauce so there’s no cross-contamination. {Hint: If you forget to do this prior to marinating, bring the used marinade to a boil before applying.} Cook all raw, ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 ºC) and poultry to 165 °F. Even though it’s a BBQ, its still important to have a thermometer present as meat cooks differently on grills since even cooking is dependent on the fire. Don’t be embarrassed to use a thermometer, even professional chefs check their temperatures. Most importantly, use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep food hot. 


Revenge isn’t the only dish best served cold! When its warm outside, biting into cold pastas or sipping on cold soups can be refreshing. Keep pastas and soups cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or using small serving trays – replacing them often. It’s important to remember different types of pastas are made with mayonnaise, Miracle Whip or sandwich spreads, while soups can be made with dairy. I don’t think it’s necessary to elaborate on how fast those types of ingredients can go bad in heat! Good substitutions for pasta recipes are olive oils and italian dressings. 

Here’s a few recipes by Yummly that are good, quick and easy:

4 Ingredient Pasta Salad

Tuna Pasta Salad

Vegetable Pasta Salad

Tomato Gazpacho

Chilled Mango Chipotle Soup


Fruits and vegetables are normally the easiest items to prep for your gathering because most people purchase pre-cut trays at the grocery store. This isn’t always the best option though. The safest option is to prepare a tray yourself ensuring you’re able to control the environment and techniques of cutting. Similarly with meat, fruits and vegetables should be handled in a sanitary area, always rinsed in running water before cutting and stored in a cold location after. During my research, I found it mentioned several times that some fruits and vegetables need to be eaten immediately after cutting. However, there are some that should be in a refrigerator or cooler at or below 40°F (4°C) within two hours of peeling or cutting. Throw out any fruit or vegetables left out at room temperature (or higher) for more than two hours. 


Chicago hot dogs have the widest range of condiments I’ve encountered – relish, mustard, ketchup, onions, hot peppers, pickles, tomatoes and a plethora of other items. It’s no different for me when eating BBQ. Keep your condiments in containers that can be kept cold and clean. You can always store these items in a small lunch bag or cooler with ice. 

Coverage is important in the elements. Always cover your food to prevent bugs from landing in it, in case of rain and especially to keep germs out as much as humanly possible. Perishable food should not be left out more than 2 hours at room temperature — 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC). Always keep hot food hot and cold food cold. After much research, its best to keep food inside and placed in proper containers to be stored immediately after serving when having a gathering at a home or facility. Although its the “norm” to have food sit out at our functions, it can cause bacteria and other foodbourne illnesses like food poisoning.  Follow these simple steps to ensure your gathering is memorable for all the right reasons among your co-workers, friends and family… not because everyone was sick immediately after! 



About Crystal Tyson

Having served nine years active duty military, Crystal has always had a passion to serve those who serve! While becoming a wife and mother of four beautiful children, she was offered an opportunity to continue to do so. In her time with Family and MWR, Crystal has grown to absolutely love her job; it totally fits her outgoing, zany personality! This Chicago native looks forward to many more years to come with Family and MWR.

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