Health Minister Addresses Summer Food Safety

July 6, 2014

Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment Jeanne Atherden addressed the issue of summer food safety when she spoke in the House of Assembly on Friday [July 4].

Minister Atherden said, “Foodborne illnesses have a propensity to increase during the hot summer months for two reasons: natural causes and people.

“Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food to large numbers. When this happens, someone could get sick from eating this food.

“More people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and camping out, and the safety controls that a kitchen provides, such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities — are usually not available.

“My advice is that everyone follows the “3C’s” this summer to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illness. The three C’s are clean & separate, cook and chill.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker and Honourable colleagues, what better day than today, July 4th, an iconic day of barbecuing and outdoor relaxing, to wish you and yours, a “Happy Summer” and simultaneously impart some food safety advice from the Department of Health.

Mr. Speaker, the desired result of my statement today is to answer the question “How can we all partake in the outdoor summer events that we cherish, without the risk of foodborne illness?”

Mr. Speaker, Foodborne illnesses have a propensity to increase during the hot summer months for two reasons: natural causes and people.

Let me mention the natural causes first. Bacteria are a natural part of the environment. They’re everywhere – in the soil, air, water, and in and on the bodies of people and animals. Bacteria multiply faster in warm conditions, especially at temperatures between ninety and one hundred ten degrees Fahrenheit (roughly human body temperature).

Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food to large numbers. When this happens, someone could get sick from eating this food.

Mr. Speaker, the second reason is people. During the summer months, there’s a greater risk of foodborne illnesses because outside activities increase. More people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and camping out, and the safety controls that a kitchen provides, such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities — are usually not available.

Mr. Speaker, my advice is that everyone follows the “3C’s” this summer to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illness.

The three C’s are:

  • Clean & separate,
  • Cook and
  • Chill.

THE FIRST “C” – CLEAN and SEPARATE

Mr. Speaker, keep things clean by washing hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.

When eating away from home, find out if there’s a source of safe water for drinking and washing hands. If not, bring water for washing hands and cleaning food preparation surfaces, or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels.

Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food can also contribute to foodborne illness. Therefore it is vital to keep particular food items separate at all times.

When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely to keep their juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for perishable or cooked food.

Remember: the juices of the raw meat should never touch the cooked meat!

THE SECOND “C”- COOK

Mr. Speaker, cook all meat and poultry at safe temperatures. Food is safely cooked when it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Take a food thermometer to your outing and check the temperature of the meat or poultry by inserting it into the thickest portion. Remember meat is safe to eat only when it is hot in the centre, there is no pink meat visible and juices are clear.

Specific safe internal food temperatures for cooked food are:

  • Poultry 165°F
  • Hamburgers 160°F
  • Other fresh Meat, Fish and Shellfish 145°F

Never partially grill meat or poultry and then attempt to cook it later – otherwise you risk stimulating bacterial growth by warming the food, rather than thorough cooking, which eliminates bacteria.

THE THIRD “C”- CHILL

Mr. Speaker, keeping cold food cold is important. Both raw and cooked meat and poultry should never be kept out at room or outdoor temperatures for more than one hour in the summer.

Cold perishables like luncheon meats, or potato salad, should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water.

It is also important to keep coolers in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible. If you are unable to take a cooler, pack only foods that are safe without refrigeration, such as fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, or peanut butter and crackers.

Perishable leftovers can be safe when chilled on ice. If they are out of refrigeration for more than an hour, or there’s not enough ice to keep the leftovers at forty degrees Fahrenheit or below, discard them.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will remember and apply the 3 C’s this summer:

  • Clean & separate,
  • Cook and
  • Chill

And have a happy and safe summer everyone – I hope it’s a good one!

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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