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Food Safety in Summer

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Food Safety in Summer

food in a picnic basket

For many of us, summer is a time to lay back and relax. Summer is about the pool or the beach, picnics in the park, being carefree and having fun. However, when packing lunches for a day on the water or filling up your picnic basket, it’s important to be mindful of food safety.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), bacteria are present throughout the environment in soil, air, water, and in the bodies of people and animals[1]. These microorganisms grow faster in the warm, humid, summer months. And given the right environment, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food[1]. This may result in sickness, especially if someone eats food that has been sitting out for a longer time period.

According to the USDA, hot food should be kept safely at a temperature of 140°F (60°C) or warmer. Cold food should be kept at a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C) or colder, and frozen foods should be stored at a temperature of 0°F (-17°C).

The USDA recommends keeping food out of the “Danger Zone” temperature, between 40°F and 140°F, because that range promotes rapid bacteria growth. To stay out of the “Danger Zone,” be sure to cook your foods to a safe minimal temperature:

  • Cook raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to 145°F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Cook raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to 160°F.
  • Cook egg dishes to 160°F.
  • Cook fish to 145°F.
  • Cook raw poultry to 165°F.

Remember, color is never a reliable indicator of safety and doneness.

There are simple steps you can take for safer food in the summertime[1].

  1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. When eating away from home, find out if there’s a source of safe water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
  2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.  Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely; avoid raw meat juices coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.
  3. Cook: Cook to safe temperatures. Take your food thermometer with you. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown very fast on the outside, so be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Check them with a food thermometer to make sure they have reached the?correct internal temperature (see above).
  4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is another prime cause of foodborne illness. Cold, perishable food like lunch meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible. Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. When the temperature is above 90 °F (32 °C), food should not be left out for more than one hour.


How AFSPA Can Help

AFSPA offers multiple wellness programs available to Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) members that can help you make healthy choices as you prepare your summer meals.
Mediterranean Wellness Program: The Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. For those who want to see gains in overall well-being and appreciate a preplanned structure, try this?8-week interactive online program?that includes access to a registered dietician. You can receive up to 100% reimbursement for the Mediterranean Wellness Program once you complete at least 80% of the Program. At this point, FSBP?will automatically reimburse you for the cost of the program under the Plan’s Nutritional counseling benefit.

How do I sign up:

  1. Log on or register on?“Aetna’s secure member website”?
  2. Look for the “Stay Healthy” icon, select “Discover a Healthier You” and proceed


Health Coaching Program: The Health Coaching Program provides you and your covered dependents the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Health Coach about nutrition and other health goals. To enroll in this program, contact a Health Coach at 855-406-5122 or 479-973-7168. Coaches are available Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m.– 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) and Friday from 8:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m. ET. You may also enroll online at? (passcode: FSBP).

Digital Coach Programs: If neither of the above options appeal to you, check out our digital coach programs. With digital coaching you can choose to work on a wellness goal, like nutrition, and online with a coach to meet your goals. Log on or register for “Aetna’s secure member website.” Look for the “Stay Healthy” icon, select “Discover a Healthier You” and proceed.

For full benefit details for this program, please see the FSBP Brochure, Section 5(h) Wellness and other Special features.


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