Food safety during summer heat

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Fatima Zamudio
  • 95th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Summer is often associated with cookouts, picnics and other outdoor meals. The combination of warm weather and leaving food out at room temperature can make food unsafe to eat. 

When transporting food and cooking out, it's especially important to pay attention to food safety, and to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. 

People can greatly reduce food safety risks to their family by following some simple guidelines, starting at the grocery store. When shopping, buy cold food, like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, which happens when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food, place packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags. 

Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Refrigerate within one hour when temperatures are above 90-degrees. 

At home, place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately. Freeze poultry and ground meat that won't be used within one to two days. Freeze other meat within four to five days. 

Also, remember to wash your hands prior to preparing food. Use disposable wet hand wipes to clean your hands if water is unavailable. Do not use the same dish, utensils or cutting board for raw and cooked foods. Regardless of the type of cutting board you prefer, wood or a nonporous surface, consider using one for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Always use a clean cutting board and wash the board with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. 

When thawing out foods or placing food items outside, do not leave items out for more than an hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees. Food should be discarded if left out for more than two hours. 

For more information about food safety, visit or