Public Health Department Warning of Food Safety in the Heat
By Hayley Bruce, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Iowa Department of Public Health is warning Iowans to take extra caution when purchasing and preparing food in light of the state's recent extreme temperatures.
Doug Beardsley, director of the Johnson County Public Health Department, said Tuesday consumers should take extra steps to ensure cold food is only left out of the refrigerator for a limited time and cooking surfaces are sanitized. When it's hot, Beardsley said, small amounts of bacteria that make people sick can grow faster.
"You've really got to keep an eye out for bacteria," Beardsley said. "Particularly in the warmer weather because the bacteria will grow a lot quicker and it will take only a few of them to grow into more to make you sick. Where as in the cooler weather, that bacteria might not get a chance to take hold."
While Beardsley said these practices should be followed throughout the year, he said extreme heat can pose an additional risk.
"It's just now, with the extreme heat, that that little bit of ice you might have had around your potato salad or meat before probably needs more ice and it's probably going to heat up quicker. It's just kind of heightened awareness of controlling temperatures," Beardsley said.
He added food safety should begin at the grocery store, with consumers grabbing perishable items right before check-out, and getting them home and into the fridge as fast as possible. He also said people packing a lunch or picnic might want to use extra ice or insulation to ensure their food stays cold.
Public health departments are also reminding people that they should wash their hands and sanitize their cooking surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.
Beardsley added that, as with all extreme heat warnings, people should also monitor their fluid intake and try to stay out of the sun, as heat exhaustion can come on much more quickly in 100 degree weather with high humidity.
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