Particularly in warm
weather, if you could just throw the refrigerator under
one arm and take it with you, there wouldn't be any
problem in caring for food to go. That's because the best
way to fight food poisoning is to keep perishable foods-especially
meat and poultry-cold between preparation and serving.
Why keep food cold?
At warm temperatures
60° F. and over, food poisoning bacteria can begin to
multiply and cause illness. At summer temperatures of 80° F and above, they multiply very quickly. While food
poisoning usually means uncomfortable intestinal flu-like
symptoms, it can be serious - in the young, the old, and
people with other illnesses. The rarely-occurring
botulism, of course, is always serious.
Food poisoning is a
larger problem than you might think too - over 2 million
people a year are affected! Plus, food poisoning bacteria
are tough to deal with because you usually don't even know
they're present. They are microscopic in size, and you
normally can't see, smell, or taste them.
So, for food safety,
prevention is the watchword. By observing the cold
storage, sanitation, and thorough cooking rules, you can
keep your food safe any time you pack it to go.
"Take Me Out to the
Question: Could food
poisoning invade your cool weather outing?
Let's say it's a football
game or a concert - whatever would prompt you to head
out to the stadium with a great hot supper to share with
friends. Won't the low outside temperatures eliminate most
problems with food poisoning?
Not entirely. Food
poisoning is much less of a threat in cooler weather, but
bacteria can still grow any time they enjoy the right
temperatures - between 60° and 125° F long enough.
So if the centerpiece of
your tailgate supper, a hot chili, stew, chowder, or
sausage casserole - cools into the DANGER temperature
zone, it could become a target.
How can you prevent it?
Use the thermos bottle
A clean, well-functioning
thermos can keep your hot food at a safe temperature for
several hours, but it's up to you to make sure the thermos
is working properly.
Check the seal around
the stopper to make sure it fits tightly. This will keep
the food at a safe, high temperature.
Right before use, rinse
the clean thermos with boiling water. Then bring the food
to as high a temperature as you can before pouring it in.
This will keep the food temperature as high as possible
until you're ready to serve it.
If you can keep your hot
food above 140° F, it should stay safe. (At 140° F,
liquid is hot to the touch.)
Try to prepare just
enough thermos food to serve your guests without
leftovers. If you do have a tiny bit left, you should
probably discard it when you get home.
Taking a casserole?
A thoroughly cooked
casserole will usually stay safe (and warm) in cool
weather if you insulate it well. Try several layers of
aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers, and a towel.
Put the wrapped casserole
in the bottom of a cardboard box, fitting other items
around it. Serve as soon as you reach your destination.
Again, discard the leftovers at home.