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Warm weather increases the risk of foodborne illness

Summertime means more outdoor barbeques and picnics, but it can also mean an increased risk of foodborne illness (food poisoning).

The symptoms of foodborne illness include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and usually go away after one to three days. However, some cases of food poisoning can result in severe complications. This risk can be reduced by following some basic food safety tips.

Many foods such as deli meats, raw meat, food with eggs and dairy products, and shellfish must always be kept refrigerated until just before cooking or serving to prevent bacteria from growing.

If food is being stored in a cooler, make sure the food stays at 4°C or colder. Bacteria can grow at temperatures above 4°C and your food can quickly become unsafe to eat. Use lots of ice or frozen freezer packs to keep the food cold. Throw away any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

When barbequing, meat should be cooked thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness. Just looking at the colour of cooked meat is not a reliable indicator that it is safe to eat. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal cooking temperature of the meat to reduce the risk. Cook hamburgers (ground beef) to 71°C (160°F) or hotter and other barbeque foods, including poultry, to 74°C (165°F) or hotter.

Always prepare and handle uncooked foods separate from cooked foods. One example of this is to use different platters and utensils for cooked and uncooked foods. Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, especially after handling any uncooked foods, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. 

With some proper planning and food safety knowledge, you and your family should be able to enjoy dining outdoors throughout the warm summer months.


The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities.

For more information or to arrange an interview:
Bernelle Yan
Communications Officer
Provincial Health Services Authority
bernelle.yan@phsa.ca
604-707-2412 or pager: 604-871-5699

Last Updated: June 29, 2015