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Summer Food Safety

As temperatures rise, so can the risk of illness from improperly stored or cooked foods. Let WVU Extension, the USDA and other government agencies guide you to a healthful and happy summer meal.

Summer Cooking Safety

With temperatures soaring and picnics occurring every weekend, the summer cooking season is in full swing. Unfortunately, the risk of becoming sick from eating these mouthwatering goodies also soars.

According to the USDA, foodborne illnesses in the U.S. double during the summer months.

Included are some useful tips and helpful reminders to some of the most frequently asked questions about food safety.

What are some symptoms and risks of foodborne illnesses?

Vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps are the first recognized symptoms of a foodborne illness. Those with weak immune systems, such as the elderly and young children, are especially vulnerable and can even succumb to death. However, some illnesses (like botulism) can affect anyone regardless of age or health.

Botulism is especially dangerous and is developed from ill properly canned foods and can result in paralysis or even death.

How can people prevent these illnesses?

The most well known illness is food poisoning, which occurs when food or beverages contaminated with bacteria are consumed.

Preventing these illnesses can be easy by following some simple reminders.

Washing hands frequently when handling foods, following food safety guidelines listed on the packages and not cross-contaminating foods with each other can protect you from getting sick.

Preparing meals and storing leftovers at the appropriate temperatures can keep illnesses away. Even some meals bought directly from the local grocery store can become unsafe if they are not kept at appropriate temperature levels for an extended period of time.

What foods are most likely to become unsafe to eat?

Home-prepared foods and foods that contain meat, eggs and dairy products are at most risk. Remember that mayonnaise (often a popular ingredient in homemade salad dressings) contains eggs.

Watch for any food recalls. If you purchase any of these recalled foods, do not consume any contaminated foods and dispose of them carefully.

Are there any slogans or phrases that can remind people about food safety?

A WVU Extension expert stated some of the most popular slogans to remind people about food safety. They include:

  • When in doubt, throw it out! If you have any concerns over the safety of an item, dispose of it immediately and properly.
  • Fight BAC reminds you to always “fight back” against bacteria when preparing meals and snacks.
  • The 2-hour rule that states foods that have been at room temperature for 2 hours or more should be discarded and not consumed.

Follow the USDA’s guidelines about food safety and don’t “spoil” your next party by serving undercooked or ill prepared food.

For more information about properly preparing and serving food, contact your local WVU Extension County office.

Last Reviewed: May 2022 
By: Gwen Crum, WVU Extension Family and Community Development Agent, Wood County