South Dakota State Health Officials say you need to keep several things in mind to make sure food poisoning doesn't spoil your next Summer gathering.
Officials with the South Dakota Department of Health say hot weather is a food safety challenge because bacteria in food multiply faster anytime the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Food-borne illnesses usually go unreported so the Health Department says the actual number of cases is likely higher than what's reported. In 2011, South Dakota reported nearly 500 cases of the food-borne illnesses E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. So far in 2012, more than 200 cases of these illnesses have been reported.
Here's what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the South Dakota Department of Health say you can do to prevent these illnesses. First of all they say start with hand-washing. Use moist disposable towelettes if soap and water aren't available. When you go to the store to buy meat for your party make sure you are bringing it home and putting it in the fridge or freezer right away. If you need to thaw some food make sure you do so in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below, don't just leave it on the counter. Also make sure your packages of meat have enough air circulation, so experts say don't stack the packages. Also avoid cross contamination: Place meat on lowest shelf of refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping on ready-to-eat foods. Use a separate spoon and dish for tasting and don't use the mixing spoon.
Experts say you need to keep foods out of the Temperature Danger Zone (40°F to 140°F). Hot foods hot, cold foods cold. Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F. Hot food should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container. If you are bringing hot take-out food like fried chicken or barbecue to an outdoor party, make sure you eat it within two hours of buying it. In addition to bringing a grill and fuel for cooking to an outdoor location, remember to pack a food thermometer to check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When re-heating food at the party, be sure it reaches 165°F.
Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Foods like chicken salad and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
Also make sure you keep raw foods separate from cooked foods. If a plate held raw meat, don't use it again without first washing it in hot, soapy water. Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors, and don't reuse marinade. For use as a sauce, set some aside before adding food. Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly. Cook hamburgers to 160ºF and chicken to at least 165ºF. Refrigerate or freeze leftover food promptly. Don't let perishable foods sit out longer than two hours; no more than one if temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Symptoms of food-borne illness can include mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some people may need fluids to prevent dehydration but most will recover at home without medication.
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