By: Richard L. Smith
USDA officials said at your next picnic, let the spotlight shine on your food — not on party crashers like Salmonella or Listeria.
When temperatures rise, and food safety steps aren’t followed, cold dishes at a cookout are at risk for unsafe bacteria levels.
Avoid foodborne illness by following these steps:
Clean: Remember to clean and sanitize all dishes and utensils used to make your salad and wash your hands before and after food prep.
Separate: Use different cutting boards, plates, and utensils to avoid spreading bacteria when preparing your raw foods and ready-to-eat cold dishes.
Cook: Make sure the main meat or poultry ingredients used in cold salads (egg salad, chicken salad, etc.) are cooked to safe internal temperatures before mixing:
-Cook eggs to 160 F.
-Cook chicken to 165 F.
Although most cold salads use mayonnaise, the danger of foodborne illness lies with the main ingredient, such as eggs or chicken.
Make sure they are cooked and chilled at the proper temperature. If you use homemade mayonnaise, follow these guidelines.
Chill: Avoid the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40 F and 140 F) by refrigerating perishable food within two hours — one hour if it’s a hot day (above 90 F).
Keep cold foods at an internal temperature of 40 F or below by nestling food in ice or keeping food in a cooler.
For more information about food safety, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email MPHotline@usda.gov to reach a food safety specialist or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.