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Beware of the Potato Salad: Preventing Foodborne Illness in Summer

SATURDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Ever eye a bowl of potato salad or plate of chicken that's been sitting in the sun for hours and wonder if it's still OK to eat?

Warm weather means that bacteria in food can multiply faster and potentially pose a health threat, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

The FDA offers the following safety advice to help prevent foodborne illnesses during barbecue and picnic season:

  • Wash your hands well and often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom and before cooking or eating. If there are no water taps available, use a water jug, some soap and paper towels or moist disposable towelettes.
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food. Do not place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or anything else and hasn't been cleaned in hot, soapy water.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Don't reuse marinade that contained raw meat.
  • Cook food thoroughly in order to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Use a food thermometer to make sure food has reached the recommended minimum temperature, which is 160 degrees F for hamburger and 165 degrees F for chicken. If you use the microwave, stove or oven to partially cook food to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before you place the food on the barbeque.
  • Try to refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately. Never leave food out for more than an hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F.
  • Keep hot foods at or above 140 degrees F and keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees F.

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service has more about summer and foodborne illness.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release

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