Safe summer food tips from the Oakland County Health Division

The Oakland County Health Division, under the leadership of County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, reminds residents to practice food safety this summer. Whether at a picnic, outdoor event or grilling at home, the following tips on preparing, storing and cooking food will help protect individuals against foodborne illnesses.

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Cook meats to a safe internal temperature

  • Use a meat thermometer to make sure the food reaches a safe internal temperature:
    • 145° F – Fresh beef, pork, veal & lamb (with a 3 minute rest time)
    • 160° F – Ground meat including beef, pork, veal & lamb
    • 165° F – Ground turkey & ground chicken
    • 165° F – Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose & stuffing)
  • Wash the meat thermometer in hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Cooking frozen, manufactured formed/shaped hamburger patties is safest. This reduces any risk of bacteria due to improper thawing and minimizes the amount of contact with fresh or thawed food.
  • Always marinate meat and other food in the refrigerator.

Defrost or store fresh food in cold temperatures – Keeping food cool slows the growth of harmful bacteria:

  • Defrost food in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold water. Never defrost food at room temperature.
  • Cook food immediately after defrosting in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep fresh or defrosted meat at 40° F or lower. A higher temperature could increase the amount of bacteria in the food and cause illness.

Separate cooking and serving areas to prep food – Cross-contamination is one way to spread bacteria:

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
  • Wash your hands every time you come into contact with raw meat.
  • Wash cutting boards, knives, or other equipment that was in contact with raw meat or poultry in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher before using with other foods.

Store foods at safe temperatures – Plan ahead if you will be going to a picnic or barbeque:

  • Keep cold foods cold, 40° F or below.
  • Keep hot foods hot, 140° F or above.
  • Do not partially cook meats, and then continue cooking later.
  • Transport foods in a cooler with ice packs.  If possible, transport raw meat, poultry or seafood in a separate cooler to avoid cross contamination.
  • When outside, keep the cooler out of the sun.  Avoid opening it too often so that it can stay as cool as possible inside.

Handling fruits and vegetables:

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before you cut and prepare them.  Bacteria can grow on the outside of these foods and are pushed into the foods by the knife if not cleaned properly.
  • Store in an airtight container, such as a bowl with a lid or a plastic zip lock bag.

Perishable food should never be left out longer than two hours (one hour if the air temperature is over 90° F) unless the food is kept hot or cold. Be sure the cooler is packed full of ice and/or freezer packs. Food should be surrounded by ice.

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About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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