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Consumer Reports: How to avoid food poisoning this summer

Posted at 6:57 AM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 07:57:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Having a picnic or cookout at a park or a beach may be a summer tradition, but the warm weather can turn tasty treats into nasty bacteria in a short amount of time.

"In the summer we like to go to the parks and make picnics and be at the beach and the pool," said Magen Kennedy.

As the warmer weather invites us to gather outdoors with family and friends, food is always at the center of Kennedy’s summer gatherings.

While picnics and cookouts are a great way to signal the start of summer, there’s something no one wants to take with them as a memory — food poisoning.

"Bacteria love hot and humid summer weather, making it the perfect time of year for harmful bacteria to quickly multiply on food. And when this happens, someone eating the food can get sick," said James Rogers with Consumer Reports food safety research and testing.

In fact, more people get food poisoning in the summer than any other time of the year, but Consumer Reports has a few tips so you can have a safer summer picnic.

Prep your food and coolers the night before. Fill the coolers with ice to drop the temperature and keep all of your food refrigerated up until it’s time to leave. Then pack it full. Try not to leave any open space, and put new ice or frozen ice packs on top.

If you’ll be driving far, try to keep food in the air-conditioned part of your car, not the trunk where temperatures tend to be higher. When you get to the party, stash your cooler in a shady spot.

Because no one can ever decide what they want to drink, a good idea is to have a separate cooler just for drinks, so the lid on the food cooler stays closed and the food stays colder longer.

Maybe you’re already wary of dishes containing mayo or dairy on a hot day, but Consumer Reports says it is important that all food not be left out of the cooler for more than two hours — one hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees.

"If you’ll be setting food out for guests to serve themselves, think about putting cold salads and side dishes inside of a larger bowl filled with ice," Rogers said.

While preparing food at home is a great idea, don’t be tempted to partly-cook meat at home and then finish grilling it later. Half-cooked meat can actually be warm enough to encourage bacteria to grow, not kill it. Your best bet is to use a meat thermometer.