Cookouts and picnics are one of the best things about celebrating the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you and your guests may get sick from food poisoning.
Food served at barbecues and other outdoor parties, especially in hot weather, is at increased risk for spoiling. When it’s 90 degrees or higher, perishable food should only be left out for an hour. In lower temperatures, perishable food shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours.
Bacteria on food double every 20 minutes, according to food science experts. In just a few hours, food that’s left out can be dangerous to eat.
Potato salad isn’t the only culprit
Surprisingly, it’s not the mayonnaise in potato salad that goes bad quickly and causes food poisoning. Experts say that commercial mayo doesn’t spoil easily. It’s actually the potatoes in these salads that are more likely to go bad and make you sick.
Pasta salads and vegetable salads with dressing are just as likely to cause food poisoning. When pasta, potatoes or other vegetables are combined with moisture, the risk of food poisoning increases. Any type of salad dressing gives bacteria a perfect environment to grow on the food in the salad.
Other ways to stay healthy at cookouts
- Some common sense tips can also reduce the risk of food poisoning, including:
- Keep raw meat away from other food and don’t share utensils or plates that have touched the raw meat.
- Make sure you know how to cook meat safely. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot to make it harder for bacteria to grow.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after cooking/handling food.
And if someone does get ill, make sure they get medical care if their food poisoning is severe. It is easy to get dangerously dehydrated when you have food poisoning.