Food Safety

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Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more or any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about 4 hours without power if it is unopened.

Preparing for Storms and Hurricanes

We usually have several days warning for severe weather events. Download the Consumers Guide to Food Safety on how to prepare for storms and hurricanes [PDF]

Backyard Barbecues

Summer is the perfect time for cooking and eating outdoors. But the warm temperature can also provide the ideal environment for bacteria to multiply. Following safe food handling practices at summer picnics and barbecues is the best prevention against food-borne illnesses.

People aged 50 and older suffer more severe complications from foodborne illnesses than those who are younger.

If you suspect that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, seek medical treatment. If a portion of the suspect food is available, wrap it, mark “danger,” and refrigerate it. Call the Westport Weston Health District if the food was served at a large gathering, a restaurant or other food service facility, or if it was a commercial product.

Safety Tips for Backyard Barbecues

Here are some tips from the Health District’s food service staff for preparing a safe outdoor meal, whether it’s a picnic at the beach or a gourmet cookout in your backyard.

  • Defrost safely. Defrost completely before cooking, and never at room temperature. The best way to defrost is in the refrigerator. If you are defrosting in the microwave or in cold running water, the cooking process should proceed without interruption, so grill immediately.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator. Always use the refrigerator to marinate, never the counter. If you wish to use marinate for basting or dipping, reserve a separate portion in the refrigerator until use. Never re-use marinates.
  • Precook completely. Some people like to pre-cook food to reduce grilling time. Be sure the food is fully cooked to destroy harmful bacteria. Partially cooking food is safe only if the cooking process is not interrupted and the food goes on the grill immediately. Never partially cook on the grill to finish cooking later.
  • Keep it cold. If carrying food to a picnic site, use an insulated cooler with enough ice or ice packs to keep the food at less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Pack food straight from the refrigerator to the cooler. Put perishable foods in one cooler and beverages in another. Keep cooler out of the sun, if possible.
  • Keep it clean. Have plenty of clean utensils and platters, or use new, single service plastic or paper. Don’t use the same platter or utensils for raw food and cooked items. Be sure to pack plenty of clean soapy sponges, cloths and towelettes. Wash hands often with warm water.  Preventing cross-contamination is one step to help eliminate food- borne illness. Cross-contamination of food is a common factor in the cause of foodborne illness. Foods can become contaminated by microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) from many different sources during the food preparation and storage process. Contamination can also be passed from kitchen equipment and utensils to food. This type of contamination occurs because the equipment or utensils were not properly cleaned and sanitized between each use.
  • Cook it thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer and cook to proper temperatures. Internal temperature for beef should be 155 F and chicken should be 165 F. Meat and poultry cooked on the grill can appear cooked on the outside while actually being undercooked on the inside. Don’t eat ground beef that is still pink inside.
  • Serve and store promptly. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until just ready to eat. When it’s warmer than 90 degrees, food should not sit outside for more than one hour. Otherwise, the rule of thumb is to store foods in the refrigerator, freezer or iced cooler within two hours of serving. Anything left out longer should be discarded.

For more information

Contact USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-800-535-4555.