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Summertime Food Safety Tips

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Enjoying a picnic or grilling outdoors is a great way to enjoy the beautiful summer weather. To prevent foodborne illness, keep these important food safety tips in mind.

  • Wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds) with warm water and soap before and after handling food. If you’re going on a picnic where there are no hand washing facilities, pack a bottle of hand sanitizer or antibacterial moist towelettes.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Pack cold food products in coolers with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs to keep your food at 40 degrees or colder to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Keep hot foods hot —135 degrees or hotter prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Wrap hot foods in towels, then newspapers, and place inside a box to transport to your picnic.
  • Cook hamburgers to at least 155 degrees and poultry to 165 or higher. Use a food thermometer to ensure food reaches a safe internal temperature.
  • Put all perishable food back in the cooler after eating. Perishable food should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. For picnics in hot weather, one hour without refrigeration is the maximum. The best rule to remember is:  When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Keep melons out of the “Danger Zone.” If not properly handled, melons (i.e. watermelon and cantaloupe) can cause foodborne illness. Harmful bacteria are often present on the rind. Wash all melons thoroughly before cutting and refrigerate cut pieces promptly. Melons must be kept chilled after slicing.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler from cold food because it will be opened more often, increasing the chance of getting too warm to safely hold food.
  • Don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate food that has been safely cooked.

Click here for more information on how to keep food safe.

If you believe you have been exposed to a foodborne illness, please contact the Knox County Health Department at 865-215-5093.

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Knox County

City County Building
400 Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

Phone: 865-215-2000

Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 4:30 pm