Keenan Blog

Foodborne Illness: That’s No Picnic!

May 22, 2019

The upcoming holiday kicks off our migration outdoors for many, and part of the fun is enjoying a meal alfresco. Maybe a barbeque on the patio, a picnic in the park, or dining under the stars are in your plans for the long weekend. It’s also the time of year when many schools are hosting end-of-year picnics and graduation potluck meals. If we want to keep it fun, it’s important to prepare and store those summer delicacies safely to avoid an unpleasant experience with foodborne illness. Using the right precautions and paying attention to critical temperatures, eating outside can be a refreshing break from the kitchen and dining table.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms may differ among the different types of foodborne diseases. Symptoms can sometimes be severe, and some foodborne illnesses can even be life-threatening. Although anyone can get a foodborne illness, some people are more likely to develop one including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • People with immune systems weakened from medical conditions, such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, or from receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Most people with a foodborne illness get better without medical treatment, but people with severe symptoms should see their doctor.

Following four simple steps at home — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill — can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.

Clean: Wash your hands and preparation surfaces often.

  • Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate: Don't cross-contaminate

  • Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
    • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
    • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

Cook: To the right temperature

  • Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly

Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90° F outside).

  • Don’t leave perishable dishes out on the table; use a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs if you are away from home.
  • Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and know when to throw food out.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Leftovers from your cookout can be a treat, but they require their own precautions:

  • To cool leftovers to a safe storage temperature quickly, divide them into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
  • Refrigerate leftover foods at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for three to four days at most. Freeze leftovers if you won’t be eating them soon.
  • Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.

All these steps apply every bit as much to everyday meals as they do to dining in the great outdoors. Family, friends and food go together, and we hope you enjoy them all throughout the summer!


About Eric Preston
Eric Preston is Vice President, Loss Control Services at Keenan. He leads a statewide team of specialists assisting clients with services to reduce hazards, and improve property & casualty loss experience.