By Lisa Crockett
Summer is cookout season. But for some diners, the fun ends with a trip to the doctor’s office. Most savvy party planners know that Aunt Joan’s famous macaroni salad will cause trouble if it gets too warm for too long in the summer sun. Retail stores and specialty shops are filled this time of year with equipment aimed at keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, a critical key to food safety. But keeping the potato salad on ice and the baked beans sitting over a Sterno burner is just part of the equation.
Summer is also the time to enjoy nature’s bounty and fresh, raw fruits and veggies are a delicious and healthy addition to a summer buffet. Here are some tips to keep everyone healthy and well throughout the summer cookout season:
– Before preparing fresh fruits or vegetables, wash your own hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds to avoid spreading any bacteria you may have come in contact with.
– If you are chopping fruits or vegetables, be sure to prepare produce on cutting boards that are freshly-washed. Maintain separate cutting boards for meat and produce, and never expose raw produce to meat juices of any kind.
– Thoroughly rinse peelings, even if they will be discarded, to avoid spreading bacteria as produce is chopped and prepared.
– For items with a thick outer skin, use a clean, stiff brush to thoroughly scrub away dirt and bacteria.
– For items with softer skin, rinse thoroughly in cool running water, taking care to rinse all surfaces.
– After items are washed, dry produce with a paper towel or clean dry cloth.
– The use of soap and commercial produce wash solutions is NOT necessary.
– Select produce that is unbruised and undamaged.
– Be aware of food safety recalls; for information on food recalls, visit www.foodsafety.gov.