DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - Bring out the coolers, picnic baskets and food! But be careful. Food borne illnesses increase in the summer. The reason? Bacteria and viruses love a warm, moist environment, including your hands.
"Wash our hands. It's made much easier now that we have bacterial soap and wipes and things like that. The number one way to avoid food borne illness is to wash our hands with soap and water," said Kimberly Donohue, a registered dietician.
Unexpected guests like salmonella, trichinosis, listeria, and more can invade your family fun.
"It can be dangerous because foods can be left out at unsafe temperatures - that's one of the number one reasons for food borne illness," Donohue said.
Most food borne bacteria grow the quickest at temperatures between 90 and 110 degrees.
"We need to be careful about how we store our food. Anything especially with mayonnaise, chicken salad, cold slaw, they need to be stored in a proper container so they can be stored at the proper temperature," she said.
You should also watch out for cross-contamination.
"You don't want to cut vegetables with the same knife that you cut meat with. You want to use a separate knife or you wash with soap and water," she said.
If you cook on a grill, clean the grill and bring a meat thermometer.
"This is a very handy device. You can tell exactly what your meat should be. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165. Beef and pork 155, and raw fish is 145," Donohue said.
After eating, store leftovers separately.
The Department of Agriculture suggests you not leave perishable foods out for over an hour, if the temperature is above 90 degrees. So take all those leftovers and make sure you put them back on ice.
The bottom line? Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold.