Experts provide tips on keeping bacteria out of food during summer heat

With the official return of summer cookouts, health experts are providing safe cooking tips to avoid getting sick.
Published: Jul. 3, 2022 at 1:30 PM EDT

CLEVELAND, Oh. (WAVE) - With the official return of summer cookouts, health experts are providing safe cooking tips to avoid getting sick.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when food is not kept at a safe temperature, bacteria can grow and can cause foodborne illnesses.

When food is left out too long at room temperature or warmer, it allows for bacteria like salmonella or E.coli to grow.

Julia Zumpano, RD, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic, said some popular summertime food staples are more susceptible to bacteria growth than others.

“Meats, dairy products and any form of animal product,” Zumpano said. “Or, salads made with a sauce that may contain egg yolks, like a mayonnaise-based pasta salad, macaroni salad, egg salad any of those things are particularly more dangerous.”

Zumpano advised that food meant to be kept in cold or hot temperatures is of particular concern because it can be difficult to maintain the appropriate temperature.

She said hot dishes should be kept at or above 140 degrees and cold items should be kept at or below 40 degrees. Either way, food should not be left out longer than two hours.

“If it’s been sitting out for about two hours, go ahead and discard it and replace it,” Zumpano said. “Serving food in shallow containers, so you’re only serving a small amount and then keeping the rest in the appropriate temperature in the fridge, or in the oven, and then replenishing as much as you can.”

Zumpano calls any temperature between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit the “danger zone” because that’s the range bacteria grows most rapidly.

She also advises people to their hands, surfaces and utensils clean to avoid cross-contamination of items, especially when handling raw meat.

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