Summer food safety tips

FLAGSTAFF – Summer is the time for picnics and cookouts but these outdoor activities can present food safety challenges. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 41°F and 140°F, so following food safety guidelines during the warm summer months is especially important.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. To avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses, the Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourage consumers to take appropriate precautions in handling, preparing and cooking foods during the summer months and throughout the year.

Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often.
Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and especially after handling raw meat, using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. When in an outdoor setting with no running water, use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Consider carrying moist disposable towelettes or use hand sanitizer for cleaning your hands.

Separate – Don’t Cross-Contaminate.
Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler chest for an outing, wrap raw meats securely and avoid raw meat juices from contact with ready-to-eat food by storing raw meat below these foods. Wash plates, utensils and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.

Cook: Cook to Safe Temperatures.
Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Take a food thermometer along. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Check them with a food thermometer.

Cook to proper temperatures and maintain the proper temperature for at least 15 seconds. Proper cooking temperatures of some foods include:

Fish steaks and beef steaks …………….…..1450F (or higher)
Ground meat …………………………………1600F (or higher)
Poultry …………………………………..….. 1650F (or higher)

Chill: Refrigerate Promptly.
Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Keep cold food cold at 410F or less.

Keep perishable food cold like luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads by storing in an insulated cooler packed with ample ice (at least several inches deep), ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Replenish ice frequently throughout the day.
Consider packing canned beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler because the beverage cooler will probably be opened frequently.

Remember – when in doubt, throw it out.
Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. Above 90 °F, food should not be left out over one hour. Play it safe; put leftover perishables back on ice once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat.

Following these guidelines can help to make summer outings more enjoyable for all. For information about food safety and additional cooking temperatures, visit or call the Coconino County Public Health Services District at 928.679.8750 or toll-free at 1.877.679.7272.

NOAA issues RED FLAG warning

Wind speed are expected to increase becoming breezy tonight and high tomorrow across northern Arizona. The critical fire condition could continue Friday.

NOAA has issued a Red Flag warning for Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. running through 8 p.m. in northern Arizona. Today winds will be from the south 16 to 21-mph decreasing to 9 to 14-mph after midnight. Sustained west winds in excess of 30-mph with gusts over 45 are expected late morning through the evening hours Thursday.

Increased wind may combine with low humidity to produce areas of critical fire weather conditions across north central and eastern Arizona Thursday afternoon. The high winds will make travel of high profile vehicles difficult. It is recommended that you slow down and drive with care if you are traveling. Some areas of blowing dust may reduce visibility.

With the increased danger of forest fire, camp fires are not recommended. Use gas stoves if you intend to camp around Williams or Flagstaff.