Avoiding foodborne illness

By • Published: July 3rd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Ahh, the summer barbecue. Heaping plates of pork and chicken. Aunt Gladys’ famous potato salad, loaded with mayonnaise and eggs. All sitting out on a picnic table in the scalding summer sun, for hours.

It’s the perfect recipe… for food poisoning.

Yep, foodborne illnesses increase during the warm summer months. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are two main reasons why.

Number one: Mixed with heat, certain foods become a veritable playground for bacteria. Most foods, including summer picnic staples like potato salad and meat, should not be eaten after they have been left out in the heat for more than an hour.

The second reason food poisoning increases in summer involves the barbecue. Basically, when cooking outside on a grill, people don’t always stick to the same sanitary regimen they would keep in their own kitchens, where there is easy access to refrigerators and sinks for washing hands. Foods mingle outside, increasing the risk for bacterial contamination, and people don’t always wash their hands after handling raw meat like chicken, putting them at risk for contracting and spreading salmonella or other bugs.

Luckily, following a few simple rules can reduce your risk of catching a foodborne illness. First: Don’t eat food that has been sitting out for more than an hour. Second: wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to keep bacteria at bay.

Remember, barbecues are for enjoying, not for getting sick.