DCP: Foodborne Illness Peaks in Summer: Basic Precautions and Extra Care Can Keep Your Food and Family Safe

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June 7, 2010

Foodborne Illness Peaks in Summer

Basic Precautions and Extra Care Can Keep Your Food and Family Safe


HARTFORD, June 7 -- As summer approaches, more cooking will be done on the grill, more coolers will be packed up for the beach, and more people will find themselves reaching for a stomach remedy to deal with the symptoms of foodborne illness, or “food poisoning,” according to Connecticut Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr.  His office is encouraging consumers to pay close attention to food safety rules in order to prevent illness.

Foodborne illness does increase during the summer, for a couple of reasons,” Farrell said. “First, warm, humid weather is perfect for growing bacteria – in soil, air, water, and in the bodies of people and animals. Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria quickly multiply on food as well.”

Farrell, whose agency responds to food safety issues and food recalls statewide, said the second reason for the increase is the outdoor, casual aspect of summer cooking and eating.

“With more cooking and dining at picnics, barbecues, sports activities, and on camping trips, those everyday kitchen features that keep food safe, like temperature controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities, are often not accessible,” Farrell said.

Fortunately, a healthy immune system protects most people from harmful bacteria on food. But some are at higher risk for developing foodborne illness, including pregnant women, newborns, young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Farrell offers some tips for summertime food safety.


  • Buy and use a refrigerator thermometer at home and in your cooler. 

“For $5 or less, you can be sure that foods are kept cold enough -- below 40 degrees Farenheit – to prevent the growth of bacteria,” Farrell said. “Most people assume that the internal refrigerator temperature control dial is adequate for keeping food safe, but the only way to be sure your fridge is below 40 degrees is by having a separate refrigerator thermometer.”


  • At times when family members are opening and closing the refrigerator door frequently throughout the day, you may want to set your refrigerator just a little cooler than normal.


  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours of purchase or use. On days when it’s 90 degrees or more outside, return food to the cooler or refrigerator after only one hour.


  • Don’t over-stuff your refrigerator or cooler. Cold air must circulate to keep food safe.


  • Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.


  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator.
  • Separate large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.


  • An important cook’s tool is a meat thermometer for use during cooking. Use it when grilling foods as well.  Checking the internal temperature of meat. fish and poultry not only keeps your family safe from harmful food bacteria, it also helps prevent overcooking.  Here are the temperature guidelines:

·         Steaks & Roasts - 145 °F

·         Fish - 145 °F

·         Pork - 160 °F

·         Ground Beef - 160 °F

·         Chicken Breasts - 165 °F

·         Whole Poultry - 165 °F

  • Use safe food preparation practices. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, and cooking tools with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Wash fruits and vegetables with cold water before using. There is no need to wash or rinse meat or poultry.


  • Always separate raw foods from cooked and ready-to-eat foods when you’re shopping, preparing, or storing items. Never serve cooked food from a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood unless the plate has been thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water first.


The signs and symptoms of foodborne illness range from upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps and dehydration, to more severe illness, even death. If the victim is an infant or young child, an older adult, or pregnant, seek medical care immediately. If anyone has prolonged symptoms, or experiences bloody diarrhea, high temperature or excessive nausea and vomiting, call your doctor.


“Please notify your local health department if the suspect food was served at a large gathering, from a restaurant or other food service facility, or if it is a commercial product,” Farrell said.  “You may also file a complaint with the Food and Standards Division of the Department of Consumer Protection at www.ct.gov/dcp or call us at 1-800-842-2649.”