Picnic Poisoning

Food poisoning puts about 300,000 people in the hospital every year (according to foodsafety.gov), hitting its peak in the summer months. Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. But following simple steps can help keep your family safe.

According to wwww.foodsafety.gov, it’s recommended to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours of purchase or use. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, cut this time down to one hour.

Store perishable picnic items in an insulated cooler packed with ice. When traveling with food, use ice packs. As the saying goes, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Katlyn Thomas, Regional Health Rapid City Hospital dietitian says, “Keep all your foods in smaller batches. If you are having egg salad or potato salad, just bring a little bit out at a time and keep the bigger batch in the cooler. The stuff that’s out on the table, you want to make sure they are in ice baths so that it maintains safe temperatures.”

Wrap raw meat securely and keep it stored away from other food items. Also, bring along a meat thermometer and test the temperature in the thickest part of the meat. Steaks should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Don’t go off the sniff test or the looking test. Make sure that you use your meat thermometer that you cook your meat to proper temperatures.”

When cooking food ahead of time, cool it quickly and reheat properly.

“Bacteria can grow in the danger zone from 40 to 140 degrees. And after food has been sitting outside for two hours, bacteria can grow exponentially fast.”  

Symptoms of foodborne illness include mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Most people recover on their own without medication, but some need fluids to prevent dehydration. Last year in South Dakota, there were 700 reported foodborne illness cases.

And as for leftovers, most foods stay good only for one to four days after preparing, as certain bacteria can still grow in the refrigerator.

And make sure to wash hands as well as surface areas before and after preparing foods.

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