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May 26, 2023

Health Experts Encourage Food Safety Practices at Summer Events

Nicholas Rupp - Email

(SALT LAKE COUNTY)—With the summer’s first holiday weekend upon us, the Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) is urging county residents to take proper precautions when preparing and serving food this weekend and throughout the summer.

“Foodborne illness can be deadly, and it’s entirely preventable,” said Jeffrey Oaks, SLCoHD food protection manager. “Proper food handling will help ensure your picnic or barbecue isn’t ruined by illness.”

What many people call "stomach flu" or "intestinal virus" is often foodborne illness (“food poisoning”). Illness can range from mild nausea to a serious condition requiring medical treatment and hospitalization. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.

Health officials say simple prevention measures and planning ahead are key to keeping you and your family safe from foodborne illness. Keep these five tips in mind this weekend—and all summer:

  1. Always wash hands and work areas before, during and after preparing food. Hand washing is the single most important means to prevent the spread of illness. Hand sanitizer is better than doing nothing, but it’s not a substitute for proper hand washing with soap and warm water—so wash hands whenever possible.
  2. Use a food thermometer. Cook foods to the proper internal minimum temperature, and remember that you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it:
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145° F with a three-minute rest time.
    • Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal): 160° F.
    • Poultry (whole or ground), casseroles, and leftovers: 165° F.
    • Fish (whole or filet): 145° F.
  3. Treat frozen meat as raw. Ready-to-cook beef patties and chicken cutlets are convenient, but still need to be cooked thoroughly. Although frozen products may appear to be precooked or browned, products labeled as “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook” and “Oven Ready” must be cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  4. Don’t cross-contaminate—keep raw meat and poultry separate from fresh produce and other cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  5. Keep cold foods cold (below 40° F) and hot foods hot (above 140° F) once cooked.
    • Foods out of temperature can grow dangerous microorganisms that make us sick.
    • If foods are out for 2 hours or more, they need to stay above 140° F or below 40° F—anywhere in between for more than 2 hours is dangerous. (If it’s over 90-degrees where you are, such as on a backyard deck, the safe time decreases to 1 hour because foodborne pathogens will increase tenfold in that time at that temperature!)
    • Plan to use plenty of ice to keep salads and other cold foods below the 40° F danger zone.
    • Don’t put the cooler in the trunk—carry it inside an air-conditioned car.
    • At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
    • Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one with the food won't constantly be opened and closed.
    • Consume or freeze leftovers within 4 days.

Report any suspected foodborne illness to SLCoHD at 385-468-8888 (option 3), or report online at (click “Report a Problem”).