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4 tips for avoiding foodborne illness this summer

What do fun summertime activities like boating, hiking, biking and road trips all have in common (aside from plenty of time in the sun, of course)? The answer is simple: food. There are few events or happenings in summer that don't involve some sort of cookout or barbecue. 

In previous posts, we've discussed the importance of safe summer grilling. Steps like frequent cleaning and equipment checks can reduce the risk of fires. However, foodborne illnesses are also common during the summer, and the number of case increase twofold in this season, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

"Foodborne illnesses double during the summer months."

Here, then, are four tips for to keep your food safety at the center of any summer adventure:

1. Consider your coolers
Coolers are already an abundant choice during any summer cookout. However, as Real Simple pointed out, there are a few important considerations when using coolers. Try and keep your cooler as full as possible; any excess space will throw off the internal temperature. Make sure you keep coolers away from direct sunlight, and, when driving, keep your cooler out of the trunk as it's generally warmer. Finally, it's a good idea to have separate coolers for water and food, as the former will be opened more often, and that can mess with the temperature.

2. Don't forget to wash
As Food Network explained, one of the most effective ways to prevent foodborne illnesses this summer is to wash everything used during cooking. That list starts with your hands, and it's important to scrub all the way up your forearms for maximum germ-fighting. Any produce that needs to be sliced, like melon, should be washed beforehand. Even reusable grocery bags, which can be used for storage and transportation, need to be washed to prevent bacterial transfer.

3. Purchase with caution 
Many instances of foodborne illness happen because people didn't prepare food properly. That's because they were distracted by a summer activity or misjudged the effects of humidity and temperature. However, as pointed out, illness can also happen if you don't pick the proper ingredients. Only choose the freshest food possible, and if you have any doubt over its quality, don't buy that item. It's important to read labels on all items, but especially safe handling instructions for poultry and meat.

4. Watch the temperature
It may seem fairly obvious that cold foods should be cold and hot foods need to be hot. But did you know the approximate temperature marks you should reach with each dish? If you don't reach these somewhat sensitive levels, then you're significantly increasing the risk of foodborne illness, according to Delaware State University. Dishes like salad, pies and anything with eggs must be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer items, like your burgers, hot dogs and poultry, have to hover around 140 degrees. To make sure you're hitting the mark, always keep a thermometer around during your cookout.

No matter how safe you might be, sometimes these foodborne illnesses are unavoidable. Fortunately, you can always visit your nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With locations across the Eastern Seaboard, CareWell is equipped to handle any ailment you might experience after a tasty barbecue. 

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