Food Safety: General Information

Center for Science in the Public Interest

CSPI's SummerTime Food Safety Tips

Food-borne bacteria grow fastest at hot summertime temperatures. To keep food safe, CSPI recommends you follow these simple steps:

  • Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often. If clean water is not available at your picnic facility, bring a jug of water from home for food preparation and cleaning. Or pack moist towelettes and paper towels to clean hands and surfaces.
  • Keep raw meats, seafood, and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods. When packing the cooler, securely wrap raw meats or seafood to prevent the raw juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food, like fruits or vegetables. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched the raw meat or poultry before using again for other food. Also, don’t use raw eggs for preparing homemade ice cream, uncooked desserts, or salad dressings.
  • Prevent cross contamination from marinades. Always marinate raw food in the refrigerator, never on the counter. If you want to use the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade before putting the raw meat or poultry in it. If you forget, boil the marinade before pouring it over other food in order to destroy any harmful bacteria.
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Raw foods must be heated long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Grilled meat and poultry often brown very quickly on the outside, yet still may not be thoroughly cooked. Always check the internal temperature with a food thermometer:

       T-Bone Steaks - 145 °F
       Hamburgers - 160 °F
       Hot Dogs - 165 °F
       Chicken Breasts - 170 °F.

  • Keep cold food cold. When traveling to a picnic or barbecue, store refrigerated perishable foods in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Pack drinks in a separate cooler, as the beverage cooler will probably be opened frequently. Keep a cooler in your trunk all summer to store cold food on the trip home from the grocery store.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Follow the 2:2:4 rule. Food left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours (1 hour if it’s 90 °F) may not be safe to eat. Store refrigerated leftovers in a shallow container—about 2 inches—and use them (or freeze them) within 4 days.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Most produce should be rinsed under cold running water to help eliminate hazards. Scrub melons with a brush and peel carrots to eliminate dirt and other hazards.