Barbecue weather is upon us! What better way to spend a nice summer day than outside with your closest friends and family? Warm weather is an invitation for fun activities, events, and good food, but it’s important to remember that higher temperatures can also have negative effects, especially on our food!

Although warm weather is inviting, it also promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in food. The USDA calls temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit the “The Danger Zone”. Cold foods should be kept in coolers or on ice at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods should be cooked and kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Food left in the danger zone for too long can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, high fever, vomiting and signs of dehydration. If you feel you may have these symptoms, make sure to stay hydrated and rest. If symptoms persist, consult with your doctor, as these illnesses sometimes lead to long-term health problems.

Whether you are at state park picnic site or out in your own backyard, practice food safety. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provides four simple tips for food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Remember, “when in doubt, throw it out!”

Four Steps to Food Safety

  1. Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often. Although you may not always be able to see them, germs and bacteria have the ability to survive in many places such as hands, utensils and cutting boards.
  2. Separate: Make sure you are not cross-contaminating while cooking. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can easily spread germs to cooked foods unless you keep them separate.
  3. Cook: Cook all your foods to the right temperature. Consider using a thermometer to ensure that your food has a safe internal temperature.
  4. Chill: Keep your refrigerator or cooler below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Germs and bacteria can grow in some foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them and in even less time when out in the summer heat.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Home Food Safety, United States Department of Agriculture, LifeWork Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.