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July 15, 2010

This Summer, Stay Safe at the Place

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

People get sick from food more often during the summer than any other time of the year. It makes sense when you consider that warm, humid weather provides the perfect environment for the growth of germs that can make you and your kids ill.

How much do you know about keeping food safe when the mercury rises? Choose the best answers, then check yours against the correct ones listed below. No peeking!

1. The temperature of your home refrigerator should always be:
a. 50˚F (10˚C)
b. 40˚F or below
c. I have no idea.

2. When you have a BBQ or picnic in warm weather, you should do the following with leftovers:
a. Let them cool, then put them in the refrigerator or cooler after two hours.
b. Put the food in the fridge or the cooler after an hour.
c. Leave the food out until everyone is done serving themselves.

3. When you handle raw burgers, chicken, and seafood, or before touching any food, you should clean your hands in the following manner:
a. Wipe them on a towel or paper towel.
b. Rinse them with warm water.
c. Wash them with soap and warm water.

4. The safest way to defrost meat, poultry, and seafood is:
a. Set them on the kitchen counter until they are thawed.
b. Take them out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw.
c. Microwave them.
d. b and c

5. You're grilling meat or seafood.  Which of the following should you do?
a. Have a fresh platter to put the cooked meats on, and use clean tongs to remove the cooked meat or seafood from the grill.
b. Never reuse the marinade.
c. Cook the meat and seafood to the proper temperature.
d. a, b, and c

6. It's a hot, sunny day and you've brought an insulated cooler packed with food along with you. Where should you put it?
a. Leave it in the trunk of your car.
b. Put it in the shade. 
d. It doesn't really matter.


1. b. Your refrigerator should always stay at 40˚F or below to prevent the growth of germs that may be present in food.  Measure the temperature of your 'fridge on a regular basis with a reliable thermometer and adjust the thermostat if necessary.

2. b. When the weather is warm, foods should be refrigerated or put in containers in a cooler packed with ice as soon as possible and within about an hour's time to prevent the proliferation of germs.

3. c. The best way to wash your hands is with warm water and regular (not antibacterial) soap, lathering up for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water is unavailable, rely on alcohol-based wipes or gel formulas to clean hands. Dry your hands with a clean towel.

4. d.  Leaving food on the counter guarantees that germs will grow as the food warms up to room temperature. 

5. d. Never reuse the plate that had raw animal foods on it unless you wash it with warm, soapy water. Ditto for the marinade - it may look OK, but because it has not been properly heated, it may be loaded with bacteria that is typically killed with cooking. Use a reliable meat thermometer to bring your meat and seafood to the correct temperatures For more information, visit: .

6. b.  It may be insulated, but you can help your cooler keep food as cold as possible by keeping the cooler cool. The trunk of your car is too hot for the cooler, so take it out and leave it in the shade or cover it with a blanket.  Surround foods, including beverages such as water, and  Hood Milk in a thermos, completely with ice or ice packs. 

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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