Does the potato salad smell funny to you? As the weather warms up, you are probably heading outside for a cookout. Hopefully you don’t get sick. Educating yourself about the dangers of food poisoning and following my tips may help you avoid spending your weekend in the bathroom.
Myth 1: The cook wouldn’t put out food that would make you sick, right?
Not on purpose! According to webMD, 81% of Americans are confident they exercise safe food handling techniques. This is a majority percentage, but this means that nearly 20% of Americans are not confident in how they handle their food. In other words 1 out of every 5 cookouts you go to, the chef may not be confident in how they are handling your food! Don’t take safe food handling for granted. Be sure not to put yourself or others in danger when it comes to food poisoning.
Myth 2: Food with mayonnaise makes you sick.
Mayonnaise based food like potato salad, is often the food item that makes people sick at the barbecue. However, mayonnaise itself will not make you sick. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria. If a food is sitting out at a temperature above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees, it creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The most common bacteria that will grow at these temperatures is called e. coli. E. coli does not grow when food is stored below 40 degrees. For instance, this is why refrigerators are not swarming with bacteria. For a tip, try to avoid food that has been sitting in warm weather.
Myth 3: Washing your hands once before cooking is enough.
Bacteria contaminate your hands when you handle meat. Your hands must be washed frequently and properly to avoid contamination. If you are preparing a meal, you do not want to get someone sick or cross contaminate. Please wash your hands after you touch raw meat. Do not use any utensils that have touched raw meat on anything else until they have been completely washed.
Myth 4: You have been washing your hands correctly.
In my experience, most people generally do not wash their hands correctly. With my extensive knowledge of aseptic technique, not washing your hands correctly could potentially kill someone. It is imperative you learn the habits of washing your hands correctly in every aspect of life, especially while cooking. My favorite method for washing hands is to sing happy birthday to yourself at a normal pace, 2 times while washing your hands. Be sure to clean between your fingers as well as under your nails.
Myth 5: You can save time by cooking halfway, then finishing later on.
A very dangerous habit, cooking meat halfway can create a perfect environment for bacteria to grow! As mentioned before, bacteria grows somewhere between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When cooking meat halfway, you are inviting bacteria to have a party and reproduce. When ingested into your body, these bacteria will continue to multiply and therefore make you sick. Please do not cook food halfway! The key to cooking safely is to bring the food up to the correct temperature in as little time as possible, to avoid bacterial growth.
Additional Safety Reminders
To cook safely, all meats must be up to the correct temperature. The FDA makes a really great guide to food temperatures which can be found here.
Remember that burgers on the grill should be cooked through. E. coli loves to live on the surface of meat and ground beef has a large amount of surface area. Overall, education about food safety is important in this cookout season. Have fun, be safe, and throw an extra burger on for me!
Sources: WebMD, www.FDA.gov