Given the heat we’ve had this week and the fourth of July holiday, it’s a good time to review food safety tips for the summer months.

Foodborne illness tends to peak during the summer months due to warmer temperatures. Lack of cooling and improper cooking are the main contributors to foodborne illness, in addition to cross-contamination of food and improper hand washing. The following tips will help keep your holiday celebrations from resulting in an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Refrigerate meat, poultry and other perishable foods immediately after shopping. Freeze any meat, seafood and poultry that will not be used within the next 48 hours.

When keeping meat, seafood and poultry in the fridge, make sure your fridge is operating at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and store the meat in a rib casserole on the bottom shelf of the fridge so as not to contaminate other foods from the points.

Never melt meat or other perishable foods on the counter. Food should be thawed in the refrigerator, microwave or in sealed packages under cold water. Microwave melted food will need to be cooked immediately.

Always marinate meat in the fridge and never on the counter. Be sure to discard the marinades after they have been in contact with the raw meat.

Always keep meat, poultry and seafood in a special cooler filled with ice and away from ready-to-eat foods such as spices, products and salads. Keep coolers in the shade and make sure they are filled with plenty of ice to keep food cool.

Never leave meat, seafood, poultry or other perishable foods like salads at temperatures between 40-140 degrees for more than two hours at a time, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees. Make sure foods are kept on ice if they will no longer be found in the elements.

Wash hands thoroughly, before and after food treatment, with warm soapy water for 20 seconds.

Do not use cutting boards, knives, utensils or utensils in ready-to-eat foods after coming into contact with raw meat, unless they have been previously washed in hot soapy water. Do not use the same utensils and containers for handling raw and cooked meat unless you have washed them thoroughly between uses.

Always check for goodness by using a food thermometer, as this is the only way to know if the meat is cooked enough to destroy the bacteria. You need to control the internal temperature of the food by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the food, and at several different points. The color of the meat is not an indication of kindness as the meat can often change color even before it has reached the proper internal temperature required for safety.

145 degrees – whole slices of beef, pork, lamb and beef (you should have a rest time of 3 minutes at this temperature) and seafood.

160 degrees – burgers and other minced meat

165 degrees – all poultry and pre-cooked meats (eg hot dogs)

Keep the meat above 140 degrees until served. Cooked meat, poultry, seafood and other foods kept at temperatures between 40-140 degrees for more than two hours (or an hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees) should be discarded.

Shigella is a bacterial pathogen that can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach pain, and this pathogen can be transmitted by flies. Be sure to keep your food covered to prevent flies from landing on your food.

For more summer food safety tips, visit the CDC website at Have a happy and safe July Fourth.

Smith is an assistant professor and nationwide consumer nutrition specialist for Washington State University. It can be reached at If you have a food safety question you would like to see in this column, send your question to us at