Lifestyle, Nutrition ,

Farewell to summer (and food poisoning)

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

How will you bid summer farewell this Labor Day holiday? If your plans are like mine, they might include a backyard barbecue or festival. But one thing I don’t want my, or your, weekend to include is foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 1 in 6 (or about 48 million) people gets sick from bacteria, viruses, or microbes in food. Older adults, pregnant women, and young children are the most vulnerable groups. Symptoms of food poisoning may include: fever, fatigue, or gastrointestinal side effects like cramping, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. While most people recover, about 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from severe complications.

Outdoor events in warm weather are the perfect breeding ground for those bacteria in food, but following these 4 Fight BAC!® practices can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

  1. Clean. Wash hands and surfaces often.
    Wash your hands before and after handling food. If you won’t have access to soap and water, consider throwing a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag.
  1. Separate. Don’t cross-contaminate.
    Keep raw meat separate from fresh foods, like fruit and veggies, that you don’t need to cook. And don’t reuse that marinade or plate that stored the raw meat.
  1. Cook. Cook to the safe internal temperature.
    Food thermometers are the best way to tell whether a food is ‘done’. Use this temperature guide to help you grill to perfection.
  1. Chill. Refrigerate promptly.
    Keep cold foods cool. Bring an insulated cooler packed with ice and consider serving cold foods from a dish on ice.

Last but not least, don’t let hot or cold food sit out for more than two hours. The longer these foods are in the Temperature Danger Zone (40 – 140°F), the more those bacteria will grow.

And if in doubt, throw it out.



Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: The Danger Zone (

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States (

Fight BAC! Partnership for Food Safety Education ( Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures (

  • ariagray

    Thanks for this great food safety guide Courtney! My food thermometer is one of my favorite kitchen tools. I think sometimes at BBQs people don't pay as close attention to food safety and food is often left sitting out for a while, so this is a great reminder.