Summer is the season to be outdoors with friends and family at picnics, barbecues and many other events. But the warm weather also brings an increase in foodborne illnesses when food sits out in hot, humid conditions. Make sure your summer party is memorable for reasons other than food poisoning by taking steps to keep food fresh and safe.
Dr. Claudia Fajardo-Lira, member for the Institute of Food Technologists, says most foodborne bacteria thrive in summer’s steamy conditions. “It’s critical to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness like E. coli and salmonella,” she says. “Always remember to wash your hands and, if you don’t have running water, bring along a water jug, some soap and paper towels; or use hand sanitizer.”
Fajardo-Lira suggests following food safety steps recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
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Pantry foods are a convenient and inexpensive way to offer your family nutritious meals. However, like fresh foods, pantry foods do have limits on storage and quality.
First of all, quality is not the same as safety. Quality of a food affects the texture or taste like stale cereal. Safety of a food can affect quality in terms of appearance and taste, but have an unsafe level of something harmful, like pathogenic bacteria. For example, damaged or improperly canned food may contain Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism) therefore making the food unsafe. It is possible that foods might have changes in quality but still be safe; alternatively, foods may have dangerous levels of a pathogen or toxin and not appear visually to have a problem.
Food manufacturers often help assure quality by listing product dating most products. Note that this practice is not mandatory. The most commonly product dating terms are:
In general, for the best quality, high-acid canned foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple can be stored up to 18 months; low-acid canned foods like meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables will keep 2 to 5 years — if the can is in good condition and is stored in a cool, clean, dry place.
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