Staying healthy this summer starts with what you eat — keep the fun going by avoiding falling victim to these food myths
Summertime, and the living is easy. Unless you’re one of the one in six Americans who come down with food poisoning this season. As the temperatures rise, so do your chances of getting sick with a foodborne illness. Learn about some of the biggest summer food myths to keep yourself safe and healthy.
Summer Food Myth #1: Mayo-based foods are the only food poisoning risks
You already know to avoid leaving pasta salads and other dishes made with mayonnaise sitting out in the summer sun. But they aren’t the only foods that put you at risk. A few of the top food poisoning sources include:
- Salad greens; wash all greens even if they’re prewashed to avoid illness caused by contamination
- Burgers; cook ground meat to temperatures of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid risk of poisoning from E. coli bacteria
- Raw sprouts; sauté them before topping your sandwich or salad to avoid bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria
- Melons; rinse the rinds before cutting melons to avoid contaminating the tasty flesh with Listeria that can grow on the outside of the fruit
Summer Food Myth #2: Keeping food in the cooler keeps it safe
Bacteria and other germs that cause food poisoning start growing at temperatures above 40 F. To keep food as fresh and safe as possible, avoid filling your cooler more than 75 percent with food. Then use the remaining space for ice packs or ice. Add a thermometer in the middle to keep an eye on the cooler’s temperature. Keep the cooler in a shady spot. Place it in the air-conditioned part of your car when you’re taking it somewhere.
Summer Food Myth #3: If it doesn’t have mayo, food can stay at room temperature for hours
This summer food myth can be a real problem. When you’re entertaining, it can be tempting to leave a buffet out for hours. But you probably have less time than you think. If it’s 90 F or hotter outside, food shouldn’t be out for more than one hour. You only have two hours at temperatures of 40 F to 89 F. Set a timer or an alarm to make sure you take care of leftovers before bacteria have a chance to grow.
Summer Food Myth #4 :It’s okay to precook meat early in the day and finish it on the grill later
Partially cooking meat, cooling it and reheating it later is dangerous. It leaves you vulnerable to bacteria. Instead, keep raw meat in a cold cooler or the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. Defrost meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outside. Defrosting meat in warm temperatures lets the outside of the meat get too warm. Bacteria can grow there before the insides thaw out.
Summer Food Myth #5: If it’s spoiled, you can smell it
Sure, some food smells bad once it spoils. But food can go bad and become a breeding ground for bacteria without giving off any off smells. In fact, you could eat spoiled food without knowing it. It can look, taste and smell normal. Experts recommend placing a thermometer in the refrigerator to make sure temperatures stay below 40 F. If you’re in doubt about a food’s freshness, throw it out.
Summer Food Myth #6: You can tell meat is cooked by feeling it
Even if a steak or chop feels firm to the touch, it could be undercooked. Instead, use a meat thermometer. That helps you make sure you cook food to safe internal temperatures. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Keep it away from the bone. Safe temperatures include:
- 165 F for poultry
- 160 F for ground meat
- 145 F or warmer for steak
- 145 F for pork chops and ribs
Busting these summer nutrition myths is important for staying healthy all season long. Eat well, live well. And keep up with regular checkups. Visit Mercy.com today to make an appointment or to find a doctor near you for more healthy living tips.
Interested in more stories like this? Our Summer Survival Guide is full of healthy living tips to start your summer right. Learn more here.