Picnics, barbecues, and cookouts—dining outdoors is one of the parts of summer. But with hotter temperatures, your chance of getting sick from contaminated food rises. Bacteria thrive in warmer conditions and food is often prepared away from sinks, refrigerators, and kitchen thermometers.
One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. For some, however, the effects can lead to devastating long-term effects including kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and even death. Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to foodborne illness. Most episodes of food poisoning are over in 1–3 days.
- Always wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- If you are outdoors without access to a sink, use antibacterial hand sanitizer as an alternative.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water, which includes washing it at home before packing to leave.
- Keep raw meat separate from cooked, which means not reusing the same plates before and after cooking and thoroughly washing any utensil, dish, or surface that has touched raw meat or seafood with hot, soapy water before reusing.
- When traveling with raw meat, wrap food carefully and tightly, and place it in a separate cooler (or at the bottom of the cooler) to contaminating other foods.
- Use a food thermometer to check meat and fish for doneness instead of relying on how it looks. Minimum safe temperatures for beef, pork, lamb, and veal are 145°F with a 3 minute rest time; ground meats are 160°F; and whole poultry, poultry breasts, and ground poultry are 165°F. (Click for a complete list of USDA internal temperature guidelines.)
- Keep food cold by using a cooler instead of a basket and keeping it out of direct sunlight.
- Use separate food and beverage containers because the drink cooler is more likely to be opened frequently and exposed to the hot temperatures.
- Nestle bowls of summer salads inside larger bowls of ice.
- Full coolers stay cold longer so fill any empty space with ice.
- Don’t store your cooler in the trunk because temperatures in the passenger area are usually lower.
- Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours but in temperatures above 90°F, food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
- Serve cold food in small portions and keep the rest in the cooler.
- After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it at 140 °F or warmer until served.
- Setting hot food to the side of the grill rack to keep it hot.
- Avoid solid foods until vomiting ends, and then eat light, bland foods, such as saltine crackers, bananas, rice, or bread for several days.
- Sipping clear liquids may help avoid vomiting and prevent dehydration.
- Don’t eat fried, greasy, spicy, or sweet foods.
- Don’t take anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medicine without asking a doctor as these medicines may make you more sick. A doctor can prescribe anti-nausea medication if you are at risk of being dehydrated.
- If vomiting and diarrhea last more than 24 hours, drink an oral rehydration beverage.
Seek medical attention if the foodborne illness is accompanied by:
- Severe belly pain.
- Bloody diarrhea or dark stools.
- Vomiting that is prolonged or bloody.
- Signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, or increased heart rate or breathing.
CALL 911 IF THE FOOD POISONING MAY BE FROM MUSHROOMS OR SEAFOOD, OR IF THE PERSON IS SEVERELY DEHYDRATED.