Is Your Fair Food Safe to Eat?
This time of year a lot of people are looking forward to all of the upcoming fairs, festivals, and socials hosted here in the Tri-State area. Even though most people enjoy the many different facets of attending these events, the primary focus always seems to be on one thing…the food.
Unfortunately, the risk of getting sick from foodborne illnesses greatly increases in the summertime months. The reason seems to be two-fold according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). First, there are natural causes. Bacteria are present throughout the environment in soil, air, water, and in the bodies of people and animals. These microorganisms grow faster in the warm summer months. Most foodborne bacteria grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 °F. Bacteria also need moisture to flourish, and summer weather is often hot and humid.
Second, outside activities increase. More people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and on camping trips. The safety controls that a kitchen provides such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities are usually not available.
According to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne diseases each year…128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die of foodborne diseases. These foodborne diseases are caused by consuming food and beverages contaminated by germs.
The CDC says that it is important to remember that food safety practices should be the same at fairs as they are at home: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.
Helpful Food Preparation Tips:
Clean: Clean your hands with soap and warm water before handling food. Clean surfaces before preparing food on them.
Separate: Separate cooked foods from ready-to-eat foods. Do not use utensils on cooked foods that were previously used on raw foods and do not place cooked foods on plates where raw foods once were unless it has been cleaned thoroughly.
Cook: Cook foods to a safe internal temperature (See Chart). Use a meat thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Color is not an indicator of doneness.
Chill: Chill foods promptly after serving and when transporting from one place to another. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Helpful Tips to Avoiding Getting Sick at Fairs and Festivals:
- Be sure that the food vendor keeps a clean workstation. It is important that their employees are wearing gloves and using tongs when handling your food. The mobile vendors should also provide a washing facility for their employees to use…and they should be using it a lot!
- Be sure to always wash YOUR hands after being around animals or their areas. You also want to be sure to wash after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes. Pack hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there isn’t the availability to wash your hands otherwise.
By educating yourself on food safety practices you can help to ensure your family has a healthier and more enjoyable time this summer.