There's nothing like a fresh salad in the summer or a juicy watermelon to refresh you on a hot day. Whether you're camping or having a picnic or a barbecue, fresh produce is often part of an outdoor summer meal. But did you know that food poisoning from fresh produce tends to increase in the warmer months? That's because harmful bacteria can grow in as little as two hours when produce is not kept refrigerated or properly chilled when eating outdoors.
Lower your risk of food poisoning by following these food safety steps when handing and preparing your fresh produce:
Step 1: Clean
Before handling your produce, always wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. In most cases, antibacterial soap is not necessary for safe and effective hand hygiene.
Frequently wash surfaces where you are preparing your produce to avoid the spread of bacteria.
No water nearby? Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available. If your hands are visibly soiled, use towelettes to clean your hands, and then use an alcohol-based hand rub. Disinfectant wipes can be used to clean surfaces and utensils.
Remove and throw away any damaged portions of fresh produce. Always wash raw fruits and vegetables with clean running water. Use a vegetable brush on produce that has a firm skin such as carrots and melons. You cannot tell whether food is carrying harmful bacteria by the way it looks, smells or tastes.
If you are preparing your salads away from home where clean drinking water is not readily available, wash your fruits and vegetables at home first. While camping, you can use commercially bottled drinking water to wash your fruits and vegetables.
Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood before using them again for other foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Step 2: Separate
Keep your produce separate from raw (uncooked) meats. When you pack a cooler for an outing, it is important to keep your raw meats separate from your fresh produce and other ready-to eat foods. If possible, use a separate cooler for your raw meats such as hamburger patties, poultry, fish and seafood. If this isn't possible, be sure to wrap raw meats securely and put them on the bottom of the cooler to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods.
Step 3: Chill
When outdoors, perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as produce, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit until ready to serve.
Place leftovers salads back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating. On hot summer days, don't keep food unrefrigerated for more than one hour.
Keep coolers out of direct sunlight and avoid opening them too often. Ideally, use separate coolers for drinks since these are opened often.
Source: Health Canada