Friday, April 13, 2012


In much of the United States we are about to enter the warm summer season, or, at least moving into spring. In the San Francisco area of California that is pretty hard to believe. Last night, during a particularly freezing storm (which included thunder and lightning) I had to cover my sprouting beans and orange blossoms. I think they survived, but I am afraid to go down to the garden to look.

Summer is also the time - anywhere in the world - when cases of food poisoning increase in numbers. The simple reason is that food just gets too warm, encouraging the bacteria to grow faster. A related reason is that we tend to eat outdoors more - at picnics, fairs, and similar places.

Eating food from street vendors or people selling food at fairs or farmers' markets is known to be risky. Many vendors do not have proper cooling or hand washing facilities. Nor do such vendors often wear rubber gloves or use tongs the way they should. (Take a careful look next time). Inspection in some countries - including parts of the United States - is very weak at best.

So look, here's the bottom line: if you have to eat food sold by vendors on the street or at fairs, only eat food that is cooked (well) in front of you. Pass on anything raw, including onions or lettuce or tomatoes on your hamburger. And make sure it is served properly - using tongs or gloves.

If you are eating your own picnic outdoors, use a cooler and keep the food in the shade until ready to eat. If the temperature is cool, think in terms of two hours at most. If it is a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.


To your good health,

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