Don't Let Food-Borne Illness Crash Your Summer Party

Summer fun means summer safety not just at the pool or on a bicycle but also at the summer party.

Salmonella is one party crasher you want to avoid. According to the CDC, salmonella is estimated to cause about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in approximately 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in more severe cases patients need to be hospitalized and prompt antibiotic treatment is required. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and can ultimately cause death.

Salmonella infections can also be life-threatening for:

  • pregnant women and their unborn babies
  • older adults
  • people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients)

Many people think salmonella is caused by the potato salad being left out. However, recent studies and reports have highlighted that food borne illnesses like salmonella can come from many food sources. Food-borne illnesses can be avoided by cooking foods to a safe internal temperature. Consider the following for summer outings:

  • Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. But that drops to one hour when the temperature is above 90 F. Get food back into the cooler as soon as the meal is done. Discard any food that is off-color, has an odor, or has been at room temperature for an unknown period of time.
  • Make sure to wash all counters, cutting surfaces and hands before food prep and after handling raw meats. Bring water if there is none available at the picnic spot. Also bring wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Use an insulated cooler with ice, ice packs or partially frozen items to keep food at 40 F or cooler. Keep it out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep separate coolers for food and beverages. Guests will be in and out of the beverage cooler, releasing the cool air. Keep the meat cooler closed until you are ready to cook. Pack meat in plastic and store at the bottom to keep fluids from leaking out.
  • Pack two platters, one for raw meat and one for cooked meat and be careful to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Don’t rely on the color of meat to judge when it’s cooked enough. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.


By Heather Gruszynski, NP, ThedaCare Physicians-Iola