Summer time means barbecues, picnics, outdoor parties, camping, and events at the park. But, people aren’t the only ones who enjoy the warmer weather – bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning do, too!  Cases of food poisoning increase in the summer months, but don’t let it happen to you.

This summer, play it safe with these easy tips:

Clean Hands.

Wash your hands thoroughly when preparing foods at home, and again before you serve them outside. Use anti-bacterial hand wipes or gel if hand washing sinks are unavailable.


Keep raw meats separate from ready to eat foods during prep and transportation. Keep raw or thawed meat tightly wrapped and sealed to prevent juices from leaking. Put meats in a separate cooler if you can. Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meats. Marinate meats in the fridge and do not re-use the marinade.

Keep it Cool.

Use a well insulated cooler with lots of ice. Keep the cooler 40°F or colder. Store the cooler in the back seat of an air conditioned vehicle instead of the hot trunk. Only remove what can fit on the grill from the cooler.

Heat it Up.

Cooking foods to the proper temperature can kill any bacteria that might be present. Use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of meat. Hamburgers should be 165°F, steaks should be 145°F for medium rare or 160°F for medium, and chicken should be 165°F.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

Food should not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, or more than 1 hour in 90°F or warmer weather. Bring and cook only what you need if you will not be able to keep the food cool. Keep in mind that prepared foods and carry-out foods need to follow the same rules!

These tips can help keep you and your friends and family safe from food poisoning. Have a fun, safe summer enjoying the great outdoors, good food, and pleasant company!  For more food safety information visit the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service at

Emily Piazza, MS, RD, CD, is a clinical dietician with the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Team.


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