Employee & Community Health

Enjoying summer fun & food

6/15/2017 by Dr. Jill Huber

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Summer is here! And with summer, comes the food of picnics, fairs and festivals. But with this summer food extravaganza, comes the increased risk of food-borne illnesses and of adding extra pounds. 

Often the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, such as monitoring food temperatures, refrigeration, workers trained in food safety, and washing facilities may not be available at fairs and festivals. Summer food also can be packed with hidden - and not-so-hidden - calories. 

Tips for food safety:

  • Make sure food vendors pass the eyeball test. Is their work station clean and tidy? Is there a sink for employees to wash their hands? Do they wear gloves or use tongs when handling food? Is there a refrigerator for keeping raw ingredients or prepared foods cold? Has the vendor been inspected? Although it varies by state, most temporary or mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license. 
  • If you're picnicking at the event, don't let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day, 90°F or higher, food shouldn't sit out for more than one hour. 
  • Wash your hands often! Wash with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds. Locate the hand-washing stations a the event, but bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren't any places to wash. 
  • Report an illness! If you think you've picked up a food-borne illness, report it to your local health department, even if you've already recovered. The local public health department plays an important role in keeping our food system safe. Often, outbreaks are detected because people call in to report they've been ill.

Tips for healthy eating:

  • Savor summer produce. Throughout the summer, fresh fruits and vegetables abound. Make a trip to a farmer's market or pick-your-own farm for a fun family activity. Choose fruits and vegetables at the height of their season, such as berries in early summer and tomatoes in mid to late summer, for the most affordable and flavorful options. Roasting veggies on the grill or tossing a medley of them into salads (with dressing on the side) minimizes extra calories. 
  • Pack a flavor punch. Try fresh herbs, such as dill, chives, cilantro, thyme and basil, combined with flavored vinegars, instead of cream- or cheese-based sauces and dressings on vegetables and salads. These fresh options skimp on calories, but not on flavor. 
  • Choose healthy food alternatives first. If they're not available, consider bringing your own food to a fair or festival to save money and calories without sacrificing the festive atmosphere. When packing your snacks, remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag. 

Enjoy a summer of festive, fresh and safe eating!

Dr. Jill Huber is a general internist in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine (PCIM).