By Mayo Clinic Health System staff
Foodborne illness peaks in the summer. It happens because bacteria present throughout the environment and in the bodies of people and animals grows faster in warm summer months, and outdoor activities increase. More people are cooking outside, without the safety controls of a kitchen.
Follow these four simple steps to avoid foodborne illness:
- Wash hands and surfaces often. Wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food. Be sure to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, changing a diaper or handling pets.
- Don’t cross-contaminate. When packing a cooler, securely wrap raw meats and keep them away from other foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash plates, containers and utensils that were used for raw meats or poultry before using for cooked food.
- Cook to safe temperatures. Take your food thermometer with you to check if meat and poultry has been completely cooked. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
- Refrigerate food promptly. Be sure you are keeping refrigerated, perishable food, such as luncheon and cooked meats, chicken and salads, chilled at all times. Consider putting canned beverages in another cooler, because it probably will be opened frequently. If you have leftovers, do not leave them out for more than two hours. If you have any doubts, throw it out.
If you suspect you have a foodborne illness and are experiencing diarrhea, high fever, blood in stools, prolonged vomiting, severe dehydration or signs of shock or confusion, you should see a doctor right away. Most foodborne illness can be treated by increasing fluid intake to replace lost fluids or electrolytes, but it's better to be safe than sorry.