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June 10, 2011

For More Information Contact

  • Robert Parker, public information officer, Western Region, 540-381-7100, ext. 151


(WISE, Va.) -- This time of year many people plan and attend picnics, cookouts, and other outdoor parties, but eating outdoors in warm weather presents a food safety challenge. Harmful bacteria that can be in food grow faster at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F, so the basics of food safety are especially important when outdoors in the heat. There are several things to do to keep food safe:

Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you are in an outdoor setting with no bathroom, have water in a container, some soap, and paper towels. Also you can use moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.

Keep raw foods away from foods that do not have to be cooked or are already cooked. Don’t reuse plates or utensils for anything else that have been used with raw meats until they have been washed in hot, soapy water.

When marinating, keep the food in the refrigerator, not out on the counter. Also if you plan to use some of the marinade as sauce on the cooked food, reserve a separate portion. Do not reuse marinade that came in contact with raw meat.

Cook raw meats thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present, and use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Pork and beef should be cooked to 145° F. Hamburgers or other ground meat should be cooked to 160° F. Chicken or other poultry should be cooked to 165° F. Also if you are reheating food, make sure it reaches 165° F.

Refrigerate and freeze food promptly. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than two hours. If the temperature is greater than 90° F, then do not leave food out for more than one hour.

Keep hot food hot. Hot food needs to be kept at or above 140° F or higher. Hot food should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container. If the hot food comes from a store, eat it within two hours of purchase.

Keep cold food cold. Cold food should be held at or below 40° F. Foods like chicken salad and deserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace often.

If you have further questions on keeping food safe, please call your local health department:

  • Lee County 276-346-2011
  • Scott County 276-386-1312
  • Wise County 276-328-8000

For more information on food safety, visit


Last Updated: 07-30-2011

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