With summertime quickly approaching and backyard barbecues and family picnics on the horizon, Daren Deyaert, Environmental Health Director at the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, wants to take the opportunity to reinforce proper food handling and inform Michigan residents that food safety is not an option, but an obligation.
May is Food Safety Month in Michigan, and consumers need to know simple steps they can take to prevent foodborne illness.
"As the temperature rises, so does the risk of foodborne illness. Hot, humid weather creates the perfect conditions for the rapid growth of bacteria," said Deyaert. "Summer also means more people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues and camping trips, without easy access to refrigeration and hand washing facilities to keep food safe."
To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, follow these four easy steps when handling and preparing food:
Step One Clean
- Wash hands and surfaces often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom, touching pets or changing diapers.
- Always wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water. You cannot tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.
Step Two Separate
- Keep raw meats and poultry separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- When you pack a cooler for an outing, wrap uncooked meats and poultry securely, and put them on the bottom to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat or poultry before using them again for cooked foods.
Step Three Cook
- Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by properly cooking food.
- Traditional visual cues like color are not a guarantee that food is safe. Don't guess. Take a digital instant-read food thermometer along to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:
- 155 degrees for ground beef or pork meat.
- 165 degrees for leftover food and boned and deboned poultry parts.
- 165 degrees for whole poultry
Step Four - Chill: Keep cold food cold
Perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as luncheon meats, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at or below 41 degrees.
Put leftovers back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating.
The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out.
Additionally, in accordance with Michigan's Food Law of 2000, a temporary food permit is required for all food service events serving potentially hazardous food products.
Food service event means an operation which prepares, serves or otherwise provides food for human consumption. A temporary food permit is required whether or not there is a charge for the food.
An application can be obtained at the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department or on its web site, www.didhd.org. The application must be submitted 30 days prior to the scheduled event.
The department's main goal in this process is an attempt to ensure the health and safety of those individuals consuming food at public events.
For more information pertaining to the various requirements to operate a temporary food establishment and to determine if a license is in fact needed for an event that your organization is planning, call the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department at one of the following offices: Dickinson County 779-7239 or Iron County (906) 265-4172.