Stay Safe This Summer
Health and Food Safety K-State Extension Agent – Johnson County
Knowledge for Life – August 2020
I often hear myself saying “Stay safe!” more than usual these days. Of course, this salutation has been in reference to protecting oneself from the Coronavirus. But with summer in its fullest swing, staying safe now extends to other microbiological—and physical concerns.
Let’s address the microbes first. Because microorganisms are not seen with the naked eye, it’s easy to find them unrelatable. And it’s hard to protect yourself against something that’s hard to understand. It does help, however, to think of microorganisms as tiny animals. And what do animals need? They need food, water, shelter, friends and comfortable temperatures. Just like summer used to beckon backyard barbecuing and pool parties, summer’s hot, sticky weather is an ideal environment for many microorganisms, so it’s a good idea to be extra cautious when handling food during the summer months. Wouldn’t it be nice if microbes could socially distance, too?
When grocery shopping, purchase your perishable items last. Shop the center, shelf-stable aisles first. Afterwards, select your frozen items next and then shop for refrigerated items and place them next to the frozen products to keep them cold. Make the meat and poultry counter your last stop. Plan your errands so that you can go home immediately after grocery shopping. Perishable foods often have a two-hour window before they need to be refrigerated, but when the outside temperature is over ninety degrees, that window shortens to one hour. This one-hour window also applies to food that’s left out after cooking. If you’re hosting a picnic or enjoying family-style meals on the patio, make sure to refrigerate all leftovers within an hour when the temperatures are near and above ninety degrees.
Another temperature to be mindful of is your refrigerator temperature. Refrigerators should be set at forty degrees or lower, and the freezer should be set at zero degrees. To help cool your leftovers quickly before putting them into the fridge/freezer, divide them into smaller portions and make sure they go into the fridge/freezer within that one-hour window.
Other microbes to be mindful of during the summer months are those that occur during canning. If canning is not done properly then it can produce dangerous microorganisms that could cause foodborne illnesses like botulism. For information on proper canning techniques, visit K-State Extension’s food preservation website: https://www.rrc.k-state.edu/preservation/.
And finally, it’s important to stay physically safe when the weather is this hot. Here are some summer safety tips:
- Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Take frequent breaks from activity.
- Limit strenuous activity to the morning and evening hours.
- Wear light colored clothing, hat and eye protection.
- Avoid exposure when the sun is hottest; between 10 am to 2 pm
- Use broad-spectrum sun blocks, with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply often.
Stay safe and well this summer and let Johnson County’s K-State Extension Office know how we can help.