UNC Health Care

Prevent Foodborne Illness

People at a cookout getting food from grille
Summer fun includes cooking out: follow some safety tips, much less chance of foodborne illness

Picnics, grilling, camping – summer was made for dining outdoors. But outdoor cooking experiences can also present unique challenges for food safety. Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer fun. Follow these safety tips to ensure your summer cookouts go off without a hitch.

Wash your hands and all cooking surfaces and utensils. If you are going to be camping somewhere without safe water, bring your own water and soap. Do not assume fresh water from lakes or streams is safe just because it looks clear – always disinfect water first by bringing to a rolling boil for one minute (longer if camping at high altitudes). You can also use disposable wipes for washing hands and quick cleanup.

Cold foods in a fridge
Keep perishables cold: much less chance to catch a bug on a cookout

Keep perishable food cold. Pack meats and other frozen products directly into a cooler without thawing first to keep them cold longer for picnics and camping trips. Try to pack food that will be cooked later toward the bottom of the cooler. Use a separate cooler for beverages that will be opened more often. Pack coolers as full as possible to help keep items cold, and fill extra space with large blocks of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep coolers out of the sun and covered with a blanket or tarp if possible.

Marinate the right way. To ensure your food is safe, marinate only in a refrigerated environment. Poultry and cubed meat can be marinated for up to two days. Beef, pork, steaks and lamb can be marinated for up to five days. If you plan on using the marinade in cooked food, keep a portion separate from the raw meat to use later. If you do serve marinade you’ve used to marinate the raw meat, it should be boiled first to destroy bacteria.

If you do suspect food poisoning, don’t hesitate to to go to your nearest UNC Express Care for treatment.