Summer is the most delicious time of year. Mother Nature showers us with flavorful and healthy fruits and vegetables and backyard barbecues and beach picnics serve up beloved grilled and chilled treats. And while you should definitely take advantage of all the season has to offer your plate, it’s important to know which favorite summer foods may be most likely to make us sick and how we can avoid being laid out in bed—instead of by the pool—by food poisoning.
Berries are healthy and sweet additions to any summer dessert or pre-workout smoothie, but don’t forget to wash them—blackberries, raspberries and strawberries in particular. It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or frozen. If you want to avoid bacterial gut infection (and, like, who doesn’t?), wash your berries thoroughly.
Sweet and pulpy cantaloupe flesh isn’t a worry. The problem lies with the skin and how people cut their melons. Most people slice through the melon’s thick, possibly contaminated, skin before they wash it. This gets the bacteria on the blade of the knife, which is then transferred to the edible part as you cut through the fruit. And don’t get us started on handing out sections to your friends and family with the rind still on if it hasn’t been washed. We know it might sound extra, but take a minute to scrub the melon with a brush or course sponge before cutting into it.
All meat carries a risk of contamination, and this includes pre-packaged kinds like deli meat and hot dogs—in fact, one study showed that 17 percent of deaths caused by Listeria-contaminated deli meats were from the pre-packaged kind. To avoid disaster at your next cookout, check the freshness date, cook the links all the way through and eat them right after they come off the grill.
We did say your favorites, didn’t we? Ice cream can be made with contaminated raw ingredients like eggs and milk, and it can also become contaminated after you’ve brought it home. To avoid the latter, make sure you always scoop with a clean spoon and don’t thaw and refreeze. That means scooping some into a bowl and leaving the tub in the freezer before settling into your Netflix binge.
They’re great for a summer salad and topping your burger, but tomatoes have been responsible for dozens of food-borne illness outbreaks. In case you haven’t picked up on the theme, you definitely want to thoroughly wash your produce (yes, even if you plan to peel it) before cutting it and be sure to wash your hands before and after as well. Also avoid pre-cut stuff since food prep stations are one of the highest risk areas for contamination—so maybe make your own salsa for your next taco Tuesday.