Summer holidays provide us with a much needed break from school and work, but that doesn’t mean that we should take a break from being smart about food safety. If anything, we need to be more careful, since foodborne illnesses increase during the summer.
Test your summer food safety IQ by taking this short quiz. You’ll find the answers at the bottom of this blog.
- Why do foodborne illnesses increase during the summer?
- Bacteria, including those that cause foodborne illness, tend to multiply faster when the temperatures are warm
- People are cooking and eating outside more, away from the refrigerators, thermometers, and washing facilities of a kitchen.
- Both (a) and (b).
- You’re having a cookout in the backyard, and the hamburgers are ready for the grill. How can you tell if the burgers are done and safe to eat?
- They have been cooked for at least 4 minutes on each side.
- A thermometer inserted in the middle of the patties registers at least 160 °F.
- They are brown in the middle and no pink is showing.
- The burgers are done, and you’re ready to take them off the grill. Is it safe to put the cooked burgers back on the plate that held the raw meat?
- Yes, as long as you wipe off the plate with a paper towel.
- Yes, because the burgers are thoroughly cooked.
- No, because any bacteria in the raw meat or juices could contaminate the cooked burgers.
- It’s 3:00 p.m. and you just finished making fresh salsa for a party that begins at 6:00 p.m. Is it safe to leave the salsa out on the counter for three hours, until the party begins?
- Yes, because the acid in the tomatoes will keep harmful bacteria from growing.
- No, because bacteria grows rapidly in food at room temperature.
- No, because your family might eat it all before the party starts.
- You want to make some homemade ice cream, and the recipe calls for eggs. You’ve heard that raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella. What should you do?
- Use an egg substitute product or pasteurized eggs instead of raw eggs.
- Cook and chill the milk before adding the eggs.
- Don’t worry about it. It’s never made you sick in the past, has it?
- 1c: The combination of warm weather and outdoor meals can be deadly. Check out Foodborne Illness Peaks in Summer - Why? to learn more.
- 2b: You can’t rely on timing or the appearance of meat to tell that it’s done. Find out why the USDA recommends using a food thermometer.
- 3c: Be smart. Keep foods apart. Don’t cross-contaminate.
- 4b: Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature is over 90 °F. Learn more about how to keep salsa and guacamole safe.
- 5a: Check out these options for making homemade ice cream safely.
So, how did you do? Remember, even if you don't have all of the answers, we do. We're available .
Without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow, and mint ice cream wouldn’t be green. Here at the FDA, we’re committed to making sure the color additives in your food are safe.
Color additives are used in foods to:
- Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture, or storage conditions
- Make natural variations in color look more uniform
- Enhance colors that occur naturally
- Provide color to colorless and “fun” foods, like those brightly colored popsicles that are perfect for beating the summer heat.
The FDA regulates color additives used in food and dietary supplements marketed in the United States. FDA is responsible for making sure all foods containing color additives are safe for consumption, contain only approved ingredients, and are properly labeled.
So how do we ensure that these colors are safe?
First of all, the FDA uses the best science available to determine whether there is “a reasonable certainty of no harm” to consumers when the color additive is used properly (at its intended level and for its intended purpose). When the FDA approves a color additive, the Agency issues strict requirements for it. Among other things, these requirements specify :
- The types of foods in which it can be used
- The maximum amounts allowed to be used
- How it should be identified on the food label
All color additives are subject to ongoing safety review as science and methods of testing continue to improve.
It is possible, but it is rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. For example, in the 1980s, an FDA panel concluded that fewer than one of 10,000 people might experience itching or hives after consuming a food containing FD&C Yellow No. 5. This color additive is widely found in beverages, desserts, processed vegetables, candy, and other products. As with all certified colors, FD&C Yellow No. 5 must be listed on the food label – so that consumers who are sensitive to the color can avoid it.
There are times when the FDA learns that a food containing a color additive may be unsafe. For example, the food may contain a color additive that is prohibited, or the additive may be improperly identified on the packaging. In these situations, the FDA can issue a warning letter to the manufacturer, detain products before they are shipped to stores, or even seize products.
FDA continually monitors reports of problems that may be related to color additives. If you think that you have had an allergic or other kind of reaction to a color additive, phone the FDA at 301-436-2405.
Questions and Answers
Updated July 30, 2010
Q. What about the link between food additives and cancer? ADHD?
A. In the approval process, FDA evaluates safety data to ensure that a color additive is safe for its intended purposes. Color additives that FDA has found to cause cancer in animals or humans may not be used in FDA-regulated products marketed in the United States. For information, see this consumer update on color additives. As for ADHD, results on studies about a link between color additives and ADHD have been inconclusive, inconsistent, or difficult to interpret due to inadequacies in study design. For details, see “Do additives cause childhood hyperactivity?” in Food Ingredients and Colors.
Last week, my colleagues and I presented our research on foodborne outbreaks linked to salsa and guacamole. Recently, the number of these reported outbreaks has increased. Between 1998 and 2008, nearly 1 of every 25 outbreaks associated with restaurants or delis may have been caused by contaminated salsa or guacamole.
We received a lot of questions about our research and what it means for people who love salsa and guacamole. (We love them, too!) Here are some answers for consumers.
Should I stop eating salsa and guacamole?
We’re not suggesting that you stop eating these foods or stop eating at restaurants. These are popular foods across the United States and are served in a variety of restaurants and at home. We just want to stress how important it is that these foods are prepared and stored safely.
What kinds of illnesses were associated with these outbreaks?
Did your research show what contributed to these outbreaks?
Not in all cases, but there were some important clues. In 30 percent of the outbreaks, local investigators reported that the salsa or guacamole wasn’t stored or refrigerated properly. In another 20 percent, the investigators reported that food workers were the likely source of the contamination. In some cases, ingredients may have been contaminated before arriving in a kitchen.
Do you know which specific ingredients were contaminated?
We usually don’t know which ingredients were contaminated. But we do know that salsa and guacamole often contain diced raw produce, such as hot peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro. These ingredients have been implicated in past outbreaks.
Is there anything else about salsa or guacamole that makes it particularly likely to become contaminated?
Germs may grow to levels that can cause sickness if these foods are not prepared or stored safely in restaurants and homes. Also, salsa and guacamole are often made in large batches at restaurants, so even a small amount of contamination can affect many servings.
What about salsa that you buy at the store?
These outbreaks were not caused by commercially prepared (jarred) salsas that you would buy in a grocery store. Jarred salsas are usually heated to kill germs that may be present. Instead, most of the salsas we studied were freshly prepared.
Is homemade salsa or guacamole safe?
That depends on whether you follow these food safety rules:
- Before and after preparing food, wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
- Wash the ingredients thoroughly under running water. That includes ingredients that you plan to peel, such as avocados.
- Make sure that knives, cutting boards, containers, and other kitchen surfaces are clean.
- Keep the salsa or guacamole refrigerated until you serve it. Do not leave it out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, do not leave it out for more than 1 hour.
If you were eating out, what would you do to make sure these foods are safe?
If I were worried about the food safety practices in a restaurant, I would ask to see health department inspection results. I might also ask whether the restaurant has a manager who is certified in food safety. Some counties or states require this.