Summer Food Safety

As Memorial Day weekend approaches and summer kicks off, many people will celebrate with more picnics, barbeques, and camping. Unfortunately, these events also create greater opportunity for bacteria that can make you sick to grow in food. Foodborne illness tends to increase during this time as more people begin cooking outside, away from fridges, sinks and thermometers. This can make it difficult to control food temperatures, avoid cross contamination and properly wash your hands. 

Don't let summer plans be slowed down by foodborne illness. The Environmental Health Division at the Department of Community Health created a Summer Food Safety Presentation with tips on cleaning, separating, cooking and storing food before, during and after your event. By following these tips, you can help ensure those attending stay safe and healthy. 

Cleaningstation 2
Bacteria that can make you sick can survive on your hands, utensils, surfaces and produce.

  • Hands
    It is important to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing foods, when switching from raw to ready to eat foods, before and after eating, and after using the restroom. The best hand washing option is a temporary hand washing station, which can be created with soap, warm water (at least 100°F), a 5-gallon container with continuous flow spigot, a 5-gallon discard bucket, and single use paper towels. 
  • Surfaces/Utensils
    Bacteria can build up and transfer through surfaces, cutting boards, plates, and utensils.  Do not reuse items, especially those that have touched or potentially touched, raw ingredients until they have been properly sanitized. A sanitation solution that can be used for surfaces and equipment consists of 1Station tbsp bleach per 1 gallon of water. Always read the labels to all cleaning products and follow instructions accordingly. A sanitation station can be created using three tubs to wash, rinse, and sanitize dishes. Allow sanitized items to air dry.
    If you do not create a sanitizing station, bring enough disposable utensils, as well as spares, for the entire event and bring separate container to store used items.
  • Produce
    Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or peeling, and before packing for the event. 

Separating foods is important to ensure high risk foods do not contaminate ready to eat foods. If possible, bring three coolers to separate raw foods, ready to eat foods, and beverages. Because the beverage cooler will be accessed most frequently during the event, three coolers ensures ready to eat products remain at the appropriate temperature.
If you are unable to bring three coolers, use two to separate raw meat and egg products from other foods and beverages. Use separate utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods.

Using a food thermometer is the only accurate way to ensure meat, poultry, and eggs are cooked thoroughly to the appropriate internal temperature. We recommend using a digital thermometer to ensure the reading is fast and accurate.

Minimum Internal Temperatures 

Product Type Minimum Internal Temperature
Beef, Pork, Veil and Lamb Ground 160 °F 
Steak, Chops and Roasts 145 °F *Allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Chicken and Turkey Breasts 165 °F 
Ground, Stuffing and Casseroles 165 °F 
Whole Bird 165 °F 
Egg Products All 160 °F 
Fish and Shellfish All 145 °F 
Leftovers All 165 °F 
Ham Fresh or Smoked (uncooked) 145 °F *Allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Fully Cooked (reheating) 145 °F If inspected in USDA inspected plants
165 °F All others
Information from FSIS USDA

Proper food storage before, during and after the event is important in preventing bacteria growth in foods. Bacteria growth occurs rapidly when perishable foods reach an internal temperature between 40 °F and 140 °F, commonly referred to as the "Danger Zone". To avoid the danger zone, it is important to:
Danger Zone
  • Keep Cold Foods Cold
    Cold perishable food should be kept at 40 °F or cooler until serving. Drain off water as ice melts and replace as needed.
    Do not reuse ice. 
  • Keep Hot Foods Hot
    Once properly cooked, hot foods should be kept at or above 140 °F. Wrap well and place on self-heated warming trays or placing them to side of the grill rack. 

Foods should not be left out longer than 2 hours at room temperature. If the temperature is above
90 °F, they should not be left out longer than one hour. 

Discard food that has been left out longer than suggested time. 
Even when foods have been properly stored, it is important to reheat leftovers to an internal temperature
of 165 °F. 

Before you go, make sure to pack: 
  • At least two ice chests. 
  • Enough ice to keep food cold for the entire event. 
  • Enough utensils for the entire event, as well as separate sets for raw and ready to eat foods. 
  • Stem thermometer for measuring food temperatures. 
  • Water
  • Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Wet wipes
  • Storage for dirty dishes.
  • Paper towels
If you choose to set up a hand washing station, you will also need: 
  • Warm Water (at least 100 °F)
  • 5-gallon container with continuous flow spigot
  • 5-gallon discard bucket
  • Soap
If you choose to set up a dish washing station: 
  • Three containers/tubs for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing.
  • Dish soap
  • Cleaning solution (1 tbsp bleach per 1 gallon water)
  • Drying rack to allow utensils to air dry.

Additional Resources:
Keep Food Safe |
Food Safety Basics | Food Safety and Inspection Service (