Summer food safety is important, because food poisoning can wreck a vacation faster than you can say “Gee, it didn’t taste funny!”

Food poisoning can be especially hard on babies and elders. To avoid the classic food poisoning symptoms of cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever (which often show up within hours of eating, but sometimes much later) practice proper food preparation.

Prevent cross contamination

  • Be especially careful with raw meats. After working with raw meat, wash every touched kitchen surface and cooking utensil with hot soapy water BEFORE you move on to preparing anything else.
  • Use paper towels and wipes instead of your dish sponge or dishcloth to clean the counters/utensils. If you’re using dishcloths, get a fresh one every day.
  • Sterilize your sponges often. I sometimes put my kitchen sponge in the microwave to kill germs, but you can also throw them in the dishwasher or boil them.
  • Kill bacteria in your sink by using a scouring powder with chlorine.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling any raw meat, eggs or seafood. Sing the happy birthday song and really scrub. And use paper towels to dry off.
  • Dip your cutting boards in a mild bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water) and let them air dry to kill germs. And get rid of the cracked wood board or the deeply scarred plastic board, where bacteria can lurk.

Prepare and Cook Food Properly

  • Make sure your chicken, burgers and other grilled foods are cooked hot enough to kill bacteria and viruses. Cook a burger to 160°F internally (medium) at least. Poultry should be cooked to 180°F to avoid that raw, pinky center. Invest in a cooking thermometer and use it!
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before you peel them or cook them. Wash everything you buy, even organic produce.
  • Thaw frozen food in the fridge, or thaw it in the microwave just before you cook it.

Store Food Properly

  • Cool food fast, which means nothing cooked should stay out at room temperature longer than two hours. Keep food colder than 40°F or warmer than 140°F, so that bacteria doesn’t multiply. Keep your fridge at 40°F or lower, and your freezer at 0°F.
  • If it doesn’t look or smell right, throw it out! Why take the chance on hours of misery?

There’s lots more information on-line about food safety. Check out the Center for Disease Control’s food safety page to learn more and see the latest info on outbreaks.