Corporate wellness insights

Food Safety Tips for Your Next Cookout

Posted by Colleen Sideck, MPH, RDN on 07.03.2019

Summer cookouts can be a great way to bond with family and friends. You can share in outdoor fun and good food all in one place. However, as the temperature and time spent outside increases, so does the risk of food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness.

Foodborne illnesses occur when people eat foods containing harmful bacteria or viruses. These germs can be present naturally in raw foods, or they can contaminate food during preparation or cooking. Depending on the germ, it can take as little as 30 minutes or as long as 1-4 weeks for symptoms to appear. Symptoms are severe enough to shut down any cookout! They include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.

Keep the smiles on everyone’s faces by taking steps to prevent foodborne illness at your next cookout.

In the Kitchen

  • Clean your produce. Rinse and gently rub fresh produce before preparing, even if you won’t be eating the skin. This removes dirt and potential germs.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination by juices. Ready-to-eat foods are ones that won’t be cooked before you eat them, such as salad greens or cut fruit. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Always marinate foods in the fridge. Thaw foods in the fridge, cold running water, or in the microwave. This keeps foods at a safe temperature.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

On the Grill

  • Use a clean plate and utensils to handle meat after it’s cooked. Do not reuse any marinades from raw meats, poultry, or seafood.
  • Cook to safe temperatures. Use your food thermometer to make sure ground beef reaches 160°F, turkey or chicken reaches 165°F, and fish reaches 145°F. These temperatures are hot enough to kill germs that could cause food poisoning.

At the Picnic Table

  • Keep cold foods cold by transporting and storing them in a cooler on ice until you’re ready to eat. Once served, they can safely stay out for up to 2 hours when the temperature is 90°F or less, or up to 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F. Put leftovers in the fridge or freezer before then. Or, toss what’s left if it’s been sitting out longer.
  • Keep hot foods hot. Store above 140°F before serving. Keeping meats on a warm grill can help with this. Like with cold foods, hot food should not sit at outdoor temperatures for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
  • Use utensils to serve food instead of your hands. Wash or sanitize your hands before eating.

Want more practical tips from Registered Dietitians about your physical, mental, and emotional health? Contact us today to learn more about our health coaching and other wellness services!

Colleen is a member of the WCS Health Coaching team. As a Registered Dietitian, she is passionate about our team's ability to guide employees towards sustainable, healthy habits that help them lead their fullest life—inside and outside the workplace.