R.J. Ignelzi of the San Diego Union-Tribune reminds the public that warmer weather might be ideal for outdoor feasting, but it also provides the perfect conditions for bacteria in food to multiply rapidly and cause food-borne illness.
“People’s concerns about food safety on picnics and in warm weather are justified,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, nutrition, family and consumer adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension Service of San Diego County. “At least 76 million people in the United States get food-borne illness each year. And 5,000 die from it a year.”
The instances of food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella or E. coli, increase during warm weather for two reasons, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Bacteria grows faster in hotter temperatures. And people are cooking outside the controlled environment of their home kitchens, lacking adequate refrigeration and sanitation.
“It’s really not that hard to stay safe from food-borne illness when eating outdoors,” says Swanson. “Just remember to properly clean, cook, chill and don’t cross-contaminate. Clean your hands and products carefully. Keep food chilled. Cook it to a safe temperature. And handle leftovers appropriately.”