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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 03, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner

Department of Health and Senior Services Offers Summer Food Safety Tips


TRENTON – Everyone knows to wash their hands before preparing food and not to have individuals with gastrointestinal illnesses involved in food preparation. But what some people may not know is how long food can remain outdoors in hot weather before it risks health.


                Food should only remain in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for up to one hour. If summer temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, food should only remain outside for up to two hours.


Hot summer days are perfect for barbecues and picnics.  But the warm temperatures also provide ideal growing conditions for the bacteria and viruses that cause food borne illness.


To make sure your next summer gathering is a safe one, Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. reminds New Jersey residents to take a few simple steps to reduce the risk of food borne illness.


                “In the summer, it is especially important to follow safe food handling practices.  Harmful organisms can grow quickly when foods are in hot environments for extended periods,” Commissioner Lacy said.  “Keep perishable foods stored at proper temperatures, whether in the refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice.  And when you cook meats and poultry, make certain to to cook them thoroughly.” 


Some 76 million Americans get sick, more than 320,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year from food borne illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The most common infections are those caused by Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 – organisms that are found in animals.  Norovirus, another common cause of illness, is spread person-to-person, and is not found in animals.


Food borne illnesses can cause fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and dehydration.  In some cases, they can cause more serious health problems, even death.  For example, infection with E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, other severe complications and death.


                The Department of Health and Senior Services offers these suggestions for reducing the risk of food borne illnesses:


  • Be especially careful with foods made with raw eggs, partially cooked eggs or mayonnaise such as potato salad, macaroni salad, and chicken or tuna salad. These foods should be refrigerated as much as possible because of the risk of salmonella.


  • Discard any leftovers left outside for more than an hour.


  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling raw meats to prevent  contaminating ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Clean all utensils and cutting surfaces to avoid contamination from raw meat and other foods.


  • When cooking meats or chicken, use a food thermometer to ensure they are cooked well enough to kill bacteria that could cause illness. Ground meat should be cooked until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken should be cooked to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Place cooked meats on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the raw meat.


  • Report suspected food borne illnesses to your local health department or state health department.  Such calls can help public health officials detect outbreaks of illness, so that their spread can be limited and the outbreak ended.  Contact NJDHSS during business hours at (609) 588-7500; after hours, call (609) 392-2020.


For more information on summer food safety, visit the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site,


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