Summer Food Safety Tips

Summer food safety is critical as this weekend so many of us will be having barbecues and picnics to celebrate the 4th of July holiday. With the warm temperatures in summer it is so important to handle your food safely to prevent food-borne bacteria which loves the warm weather. None of us want to get food poisoning or have our guests get sick during the celebration. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 6 Americans, that’s 48 million people, suffer from food-borne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. The Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40 °F and 140 °F in which foodborne bacteria can grow rapidly to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Leaving perishables out too long in the Danger Zone is one of the most common mistakes people make, especially during warmer months.

Safe Summer Food Infographic

Keep Food Out of the Danger Zone

  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours if the temperature is at or below 90 ⁰F, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90 ⁰F. Since the weather will likely be very hot on July 4th, food should be returned to the cooler within an hour. If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out immediately.
  • Always keep cold food COLD, at or below 40 °F, in coolers or in containers with a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers, heated chafing dishes, warming trays and/or slow cookers. If food needs to be reheated, reheat it to 165 °F.
  • Pack an appliance thermometer in your cooler to ensure food stays at or below 40 °F. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently. Keep the cooler in the shade, and try to cover it with a blanket or tarp to keep it cool. Replenish the ice if it melts.
  • Use the food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry and seafood. Use our Is It Done Yet? guide to learn where to place the thermometer in each item. You absolutely cannot tell whether the meat is safely cooked by just looking.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator – not on the counter. If you plan to reuse the marinade from raw meat or poultry, make sure to boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.

Founding Fathers 4 Steps to Food Safety



I would also recommend looking for recipes that do not contain perishable ingredients. This time of year there are a lot of side dishes and salads that have things like mayonnaise in them. This is not an ingredient you want to eat as it sits out in the heat! For those kinds of dishes, if you must have them, put the bowl of it into another bowl filled with ice and refresh the ice as often as needed to keep the salad or side dish at a safe temperature.

How do you make sure you are food safe on the holiday weekend and throughout the summer? I would love to know your own tips or recipes!



Infographics from USDA