Don't Let the Food Bugs Bite!

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Which would spoil faster at an outdoor buffet: a well-done hamburger or coleslaw? You may think eating cooked meat sounds safer than the mayonnaise-rich side, but you'd be wrong. Foods made with mayo- and vinegar-based dressings have bacteria-fighting properties, while those containing protein are especially prone to bacteria, which can double in amount every 15 to 30 minutes in the heat, says Ruth Frechman, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Signs that you've caught a food-borne illness include mild to severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Type of Food

Temperature Tip Leave Outside Healthy Hint
Raw meat, poultry, and seafood Keep below 40 degrees Fahrenheit No longer than 1 hour Refrigerate or store meat in a cooler before cooking.
Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood Always cook thoroughly No longer than 2 hours Never put cooked food on the same platter that held it raw.
Raw veggies Keep at room temperature or cooler No longer than 2 hours Vegetable lose nutrients when they become limp from heat.
Salads Keep below 40 degrees Fahrenheit No longer than 2 hours Salads with cooked eggs should be taken inside after an hour.
Condiments Keep at room temperature or cooler As long as needed, but not in direct sunlight They can lose freshness if allowed to stay in the sunlight too long.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, June 2007.


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