Chances of spoiled food heat up with summer, USDA releases new tips

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:46 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As summer heats up, so does the chance of spoiled food on outdoor outings. The USDA has released a few tips and tricks to keep food safe to eat.

As summer fast approaches, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says millions will hit the road to visit parks, beaches and campgrounds around the nation. While items are marked off checklists, it said to ensure food safety tips are also taken along for the ride.

“USDA reminds summer travelers not to let your outdoor meal become a feast for bacteria,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban. “Bacteria grows faster during the summer months because it’s warmer and more humid. Pack perishable foods safely with a cold source and wash your hands thoroughly while preparing food.”

The Department urged residents to keep the following tips in mind while planning summer getaways in 2023:

Avoid the Danger Zone

According to the USDA, any food between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is in the “Danger Zone” and only has a limited time before it becomes a safety risk:

  • Refrigerate perishable food within two hours - within one hour if it is above 90 degrees outside.
  • Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or below on ice on a picnic table or kept in a cooler until ready to serve.
  • Keep hot foods at 140 or above in a warming tray or on the grill.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and in small containers to keep them in a cooler below 40 degrees.

Safety on the Road

  • Ensure coolers are stocked with ice or frozen cold sources to help perishable foods stay safe.
  • Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another so perishable foods may stay cooler.
  • Once outside, keep coolers in the shade.
  • Full coolers will keep perishable foods cold and safe longer than half-full ones.
  • Fill extra space in the cooler with more ice or pack foods when they are frozen to maintain a cold temperature.

Camping and Backpacking

  • If a trip is scheduled for longer than a day, plan ahead for when cold sources run out - consider packing shelf-stable items that do not need to be kept cold.
  • Shelf stable options include -
    • Pre-packaged, shelf-stable meals
    • Peanut butter in plastic jars
    • Concentrated juice boxes
    • Canned tuna, ham, chicken and beef
    • Dried noodles and soups
    • Beef jerky and other shelf-stable meats
    • Dehydrated foods
    • Whole or dried fruits
    • Nuts
    • Powdered milk and fruit drinks

Wash Your Hands

Wash hands before every meal:

  • If running water is available, then follow proper handwashing steps to stop bacteria from spreading to the meal. Ensure to wet your hands, lather with soup, scrub for 20 seosn, rinse and dry.
  • If no running water is available, then use hand sanitizer or moist towelettes that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Do not use water from streams and rivers - it is untreated and not safe for drinking.