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Summer food safety tips

Summer food safety tips
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Tips on avoiding food-borne illness

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2011

Food safety is a year-round concern, but it's especially important during the summer barbecue and picnic season, health officials say.

That's because higher outdoor temperatures are the ideal breeding ground for illness causing foodborne bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

E. coli is one of the leading causes of food poisoning, says Colleen Rand, Regional Manager of Clinical Nutrition - Community for the Winnipeg Health Region. It has garnered a lot of media attention following an outbreak of a deadly strain in Europe that claimed the lives of dozens of people. In most cases, says Rand, E. coli isn't life-threatening to otherwise healthy people, but it can make people feel ill, and it can be a problem for the yery young and the very old. Rand says there are three important rules to ensure you have a food-borne illness free summer:

Keep food at the right temperature so microorganisms don't grow at a fast rate.

Proper food storage prior to cooking and serving will help reduce the risks. Keep dairy and fresh foods like salad cool until they're ready to be consumed. "It's a short period before it can start to go bad (if left outside in warm weather)." This is especially important advice for items containing eggs, like mayonnaise. "Do not let that sit in the heat at all. Eat them from your cooler and keep them there with the ice packs," says Rand.

Keep raw and cooked foods separate.

Raw meat contains bacteria like salmonella and E. coli that can make people ill. Ensure raw meat does not contaminate already cooked or raw consumables like vegatables and fruit. Meat must be cooked long enough to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Cooking temperatures vary, but to be on the safe side, the internal temperature of a piece of meat should be 71 C (160 F) for ground beef; 85 C (185 F) for whole poultry and 74 C (165 F) for leftover food. Ensure that cross-contamination doesn't occur during the cooking process.

Wash your hands and utensils after handling anything that's touched raw food.

Do not use the same utensils for barbecuing raw meat to handle cooked food or consumable raw veggies and fruits.

Wave: Summer 2011

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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