Tips for summer food safety

Summer eating can be enjoyable with fresh seasonal produce, outdoor eating and entertaining for special occasions or family gatherings. Unfortunately, food poisoning is more common in summer than at any other time of year.

Bacteria in food multiply faster in hot, humid weather. Most home kitchens aren’t designed for the safe handling of large quantities of food. Preparing and eating food outdoors – in the garden, when camping or at picnics and barbecues – can also be difficult, where refrigeration and places to wash hands are not readily available.

Food poisoning can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and may be quite serious for children, older people and people with conditions that weaken their immune systems. Prevent food poisoning from spoiling your summer fun. Follow these simple steps to keep food fresh and safe this summer.

  1. Set your thermostat. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 5 °C and keep your freezer at minus 15 °C to minus 18 °C. Stock your cooler well with ice packs or clean ice. Keep salads fresh and meat safe in the cooler or fridge at 5 °C or less until cooking or serving.
  2. Get food home quickly. Take chilled, frozen or hot food straight home in insulated containers.
  3. Keep hot food hot. If you don’t want to cool food straight away, keep hot food at 60 °C or hotter. Reheat foods thoroughly so they’re steaming (above 75 °C) or boiling.
  4. Don’t leave hot foods to completely cool before refrigerating. Put hot food in the fridge or freezer as soon as the steam stops rising. Cool it rapidly first by dipping the container in ice or a cold-water bath. Divide food into smaller, shallower containers so it cools more quickly in the fridge.
  5. Keep raw meat, chicken and seafood chilled and away from cooked food. When bacteria from raw meat gets onto cooked food, this can cause food poisoning. Keep raw meat below other foods in the fridge and don’t let raw meat juices drip onto other food. Use different chopping boards for raw and cooked food, or wash them between uses. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
  6. Thaw frozen food thoroughly. Unless food is manufactured to be cooked from frozen (check pack instructions), make sure it’s thawed right through before cooking.
  7. Don’t overfill your fridge. Having enough room for air circulation inside the fridge is important for effective cooling. A good tip if you’re catering for a crowd is to keep drinks on ice or in an insulated cooler and reserve the space in your fridge for food.
  8. Store leftovers safely. Store any leftovers in the fridge and eat within three to five days. If you don’t plan to eat them within this time, freeze them straight away.
  9. Know when to throw away. Don’t eat food that’s been left out of the fridge for more than four hours – especially poultry, meat, seafood, cooked rice and cooked pasta.
  10. Avoid handling food when you’re not feeling well. If you have diarrhoea, vomiting, sore throat with fever, fever or jaundice, or infectious skin conditions, avoid handling food and see a doctor if symptoms persist.

Best cooling foods for the Indian summer

Curd/ yogurt
Curd is a delicious coolant. You can make delicious – chilled spicy buttermilk, a glass of lassi or chachh and raita. You can also add fruits to the curds to make a lip-smacking and wholesome dessert or prepare dips during the summer season.

Coconut water
An inexpensive coconut is full of health benefits and has wonderful cooling properties. It is laden with simple sugars, electrolytes and essential minerals which help keep the body well hydrated. In addition to that, there is evidence to suggest that coconut water has cancer fighting and anti-ageing properties as well.

Another fruit that can help you keep cool. We are not suggesting you to buy the chopped watermelon slices sold by the roadside vendors. In fact, they should never be consumed if you want to avoid the risk of a diarrhoea infection. Bring home a watermelon, cool it and have lots of it to benefit from the antioxidants present in this delicious fruit.

This crunchy vegetable costs little, has lots of fibre that can help keep constipation at bay. It can make each of your bites crunchier and help you stay cool as a cucumber!

Mint is a simple, easily available, inexpensive herb which you can add to your curd to make pudina raita or have it in the form of chutneys besides using it in dips. The best thing about it is that you can grow it in a small pot at home for your use. Though it does not help bring down the body temperature, we love it because of the delicious and refreshing taste.

Green veggies
Though green vegetables are good to have round the year, it is good to have lots of them during the summer months because they have a high water content. Avoid overcooking them because that can cause a loss of water contained therein.

Onions have amazing cooling properties. You can add it to your curries, dips, raitas, salads and chutneys to help keep you cool. The red onions, in particular, are very rich in quercetin, which is a natural anti-allergen. Having lots of onions can provide you protection against sunstroke.

This is another fruit which is nearly 90% water. Have lots of it in summers to stay cool and well hydrated.

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