Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-221-2463

Extreme Heat Can Have Impact on Food Safety

Marion County Public Health Department Food and Consumer Safety inspectors are continuing to work with licensed food handlers to ensure the heat wave is not having an impact on the safe preparation and storage of food served to the public.

Health inspectors want to be certain hood and ventilation systems are working properly and ensuring coolers and freezers are maintaining proper temperatures. Equipment not working properly can be cited and taken out of service until repaired.

Power outages associated with heat waves can also impact safe food storage. If a cooler or freezer has not been able to maintain the proper temperature for more than four hours, the products need to be discarded.

Outdoor food vendors are also licensed and inspected by the Marion County Public Health Department. These vendors also must maintain the proper hot or cold food temperatures. If these temperatures are not maintained the food products are discarded.

For those planning a picnic or taking food outdoors with them, certain precautions need to be taken.

The consumer guidelines for keeping food safe in the summer at outdoor events is to never leave food out of temperature control for more than an hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees. Consumers should also use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 41 F or below.

The food should be packed right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home. During transport, the cooler should be kept in the air conditioned vehicle not the trunk. Once at the picnic or event, the cooler should be kept out of the sun. Beverages should be packed in one cooler and perishables in another cooler while avoiding opening the cooler's lid (which lets cold air out and warm air in).

Any food (hot or cold) that is left out of temperature control for more than an hour in the summer heat should be discarded.

As always, consistent and thorough hand washing is critical when handling food. For more information, contact the Marion County Public Health Department at 221-2200.

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