USDA: Summer brings more risk for foodborne illness
It’s heating up outside, which means lunch by the pool could result in foodborne illness if steps aren’t taken to keep food safe. For kids, that could mean more than just a few hours of sickness.
“Children under 5 are at a higher risk for foodborne illness,” said Adam Ghering, public affairs specialist with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Ghering said the highest-risk foods are those that are raw or undercooked, especially meat, poultry and eggs, and unpasteurized milk and juices.
“Some people think it’s just an acute illness,” he said. “Fifteen percent of children under 5 with E. coli O157 develop hemolytic uremic syndrome that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and pancreas and in some cases, can be fatal.”
Especially for young children, adults older than 65, those with an illness or a comprised immune system, Ghering cautions against drinking raw milk and unpasteurized juices. According to the CDC, considering the small amount of milk that is consumed raw and the number of illness outbreaks associated with raw milk, the risk of outbreaks linked to raw milk is at least 150 times greater than the risk of outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk.
Ghering said foodborne illnesses increase during the summer because outdoor temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit cause bacteria to grow twice as quickly as at lower temperatures.
“Also, a lot of people are outdoors doing cooking activities and you don’t have as much control compared to indoors,” he said.
Typically, Ghering said the recommendation is to refrigerate all perishable food within two hours of cooking, but if the temperature is above 90 degrees, that time reduces to just one hour.
When cooking meats, don’t guess on whether dinner is done. Use a meat thermometer to be safe.
“A lot of people use color,” Ghering said. “That’s not reliable.”
Whole meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, with a 3-minute rest. Poultry and ground red meat require 165 and 160 degrees, respectively.
Once food is cooked, Ghering said it is important to store and carry it properly. When traveling, pack one cooler with ice and another with drinks, since the drink cooler will likely be accessed more often.
“While you are traveling, make sure the cooler is out of the sun and in the coolest part of the car,” he said. “Make sure you really fill up your cooler with ice. You really want to make sure it’s 40 degrees and below.”
Concerned about recent recalls of eggs and lettuce? The USDA hotline can help you verify if what you have in your home is part of a recall. Call 1-888-674-6854 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays – Fridays.
USDA public affairs specialist Adam Ghering said it’s easy to grill meat like a PRO:
P – Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat but avoid the bone.
R – Read the temperature. Wait 10 – 20 seconds to get an accurate reading.
O – Take it off the grill and always put cooked food on a clean plate.