Picnics and barbecues with family and friends are part of summer fun. Make sure they stay fun by remembering that foodborne bacteria can multiply rapidly in summer temperatures. To protect against foodborne illness when eating outdoors, follow these simple food safety guidelines for transporting your food, preparing, and serving it safely
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler - including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.
- Keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.
- Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
- Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another, so that frequent opening of the beverage cooler won’t expose the perishable foods to warm outdoor air temperatures
- Don’t cross-contaminate. It’s best to have a separate cooler for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, but if you don’t, make sure they are securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from contaminating already prepared foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
Going to the Picnic
- Put cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs for transport. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
- Carry coolers in the passenger compartment of your car, not in the much warmer trunk.
When You Get There
- Hand cleaning is key to food safety— including outdoor settings. If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
- Keep coolers closed as much as you can to keep the contents cold longer.
- Once served, cold food should not sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90° F. If it does - throw it away.
- Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F. Wrap it well and place it in an insulated container until serving.
- Just like cold food - hot foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F. If does, again, throw it away to be safe.
Safe Grilling Tips
Just as when cooking indoors, there are important steps to ensure that your grilled food is safe.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator - never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. If you will use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade.
- Cook immediately after "partial cooking." If you partially cook food to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill. Cook food thoroughly. When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready. Always use it to be sure your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Keep cooked food hot. Move cooked grilled food to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals to keep it hot until served.
- Don't reuse platters or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood because bacteria from the raw food’s juices can spread to the cooked food. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
- Check for foreign objects in food. If you clean your grill using a bristle brush, check to make sure that no detached bristles have made their way into the grilled food.
For more information, see FDA’s Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely
Food poisoning, sometimes known as foodborne illness, can happen anywhere, to anyone, and from foods we might not expect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with federal, state, and local partners to collect information about how many people get sick each year from different foodborne germs, or germs found in food. The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) provides important data for tracking these foodborne illnesses.
Report Card for Food Safety
Each year, FoodNet reports the changes in the number of people with foodborne infections that were confirmed by laboratory tests. This information lets CDC, its partners, and policy makers know how much progress has been made in reaching national goals for reducing foodborne illness.
Highlights of the 2012 FoodNet Data
Data from FoodNet, which accounts for 15% of the US population, provide the best measure of trends in foodborne disease in the United States. Trends show if illnesses are increasing or decreasing. Overall, the 2012 FoodNet data showed a lack of recent progress in reducing foodborne infections and highlights the need for improved prevention.
- FoodNet identified 19,531 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection.
- Campylobacter was the second most common infection reported in FoodNet. Incidence of infection was 14% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- Vibrio infections, while rare, were 43% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008.
- You can prevent Vibrio infections by thoroughly cooking oysters and by not exposing wounds to warm seawater.
When compared to the first three years of FoodNet surveillance (1996–1998), the 2012 data shows some clear changes:
- The overall incidence of infection of six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.
- The overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged.
- The incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher.
Recent Efforts and Next Steps
Most foodborne illnesses can be prevented. Some progress has been made in decreasing contamination of some foods and reducing illness caused by some pathogens. Recent efforts to reduce contamination of food include:
- Establishing performance standards for Campylobacter contamination of whole broiler chickens in processing plants in 2011.
- Approving more stringent time and temperature controls for oysters after harvest to prevent Vibrio vulnificus infections.
- Passing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.
- The act gives FDA additional authority to regulate food facilities, establish standards for safe produce, recall contaminated foods, and oversee imported foods.
- It calls on CDC to strengthen surveillance and outbreak response.
More can be done. It is important to determine where to target prevention efforts, which requires continued collection of information to understand sources of infection, implementation of measures known to reduce food contamination, and development of new measures.
Dana L. Pitts is the Associate Director of Communications in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases of the CDC.
Father’s Day is right around the corner! If you’re planning to take dad out to celebrate, keep these things in mind when choosing the right restaurant for you and your family.
Food Safety Rules
The food vendors in your community, like restaurants, delis, grocery stores, and others, must follow local food safety rules. These rules are set by your city, county, district, or state. Each community may have the same or slightly different food safety rules and requirements for food vendors. All food safety rules have similar requirements about
- Safe source: Food or food ingredients come from a safe source.
- Safe temperature: Food is held at the correct cold or hot holding temperatures.
- Proper cooking: Food is cooked properly, especially foods such as meat, poultry, and pork.
- Proper handling: Food is handled to prevent cross-contamination from the environment (for example, common work areas or common utensils).
- Proper hand washing: Food handlers know how to prevent contamination, especially food handlers who may be sick with vomiting or diarrhea.
One of the ways food safety rules protect the public’s health is through food vendor inspections. Each community’s rules may differ on
- How often food vendor inspections are conducted.
- The type of inspection form used.
- The type of grading or scoring system used to rate the safety of food vendors.
The system to rate food vendors may be a numerical score, a letter-grade score (A, B, C), or a pass/fail rating. These scores are usually shared with the public in some way, including
- Food vendor publicly posts their full inspection reports, showing all violations and inspector notes as well as the rating.
- Food vendor publicly posts only their rating and not the full inspection report.
- Food safety regulatory agency posts food vendors’ full inspection reports along with the rating on the Internet.
- Food safety regulatory agency posts only food vendors’ ratings on the Internet.
Talk to your local food safety regulators to find out whether food vendors in your area must display inspection information and what information they must display. You can find the contact information for your local food safety regulators using the Directory of State and Local Officials website. If you can’t find a food vendor’s score or inspection report, ask the manager if you can see the most recent report.
When speaking to your local food regulatory agency about the inspection report for a particular vendor, ask if they have had any recent food safety rule violations for
- Unsafe food source.
- Improper hot-holding or cold-holding of food.
- Improperly cooked food.
- Cross contamination.
- Contamination by sick workers.
Reporting Foodborne Illness
Most people don’t report their illness. Public health officials need to know about illnesses that may be caused by food so foodborne outbreaks can be identified and stopped as quickly as possible.
Report your illness to your local food safety regulator if you think a meal from a food vendor made you sick. It is especially important to report illnesses when more than one person gets sick after eating the same meal.
For More Information
- Identify the local agency responsible for restaurant inspection in your area on the Directory of State and Local Officials website (Association of Food and Drug Officials)
- Read plain language summaries of restaurant food safety studies (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Specialists Network)