10 Guaranteed Ways to Ruin a Family Reunion


Accidentally Make Everyone Sick

That potato salad (and any other food) is a perfect home for bacteria if you leave it out in the sun. ©iStockphoto.com/Denise Bush
That potato salad (and any other food) is a perfect home for bacteria if you leave it out in the sun. ŠiStockphoto.com/Denise Bush

Your odds of a bout of food poisoning this year are about one out of six, and if you're not careful, you could be the cause of foodborne illness at your family reunion's feast.

Food that's been left at room temperature is a bacteria-generating factory. As soon as the temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius), bacteria begin to grow, rapidly. At room temperature, the amount of bacteria in that food doubles every 20 minutes, multiplying even faster as the temperature continues to rise [source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services]. Keep hot foods hot with portable burners, cold foods cold with trays of ice and don't let leftovers linger. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking -- that holds true for both indoor foods and outdoor foods -- and cut that time to just one hour if the summer temperature rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) [source: WebMD].

In addition to keeping hot and cold foods separate and at their proper temperatures, be careful when working with meat and produce. Raw meats and unwashed fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with bacteria such as e.coli, listeria and salmonella, among other bacteria, and may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, headache, fever, chills and weakness [source: FoodSafety.gov]. Wash all produce well, don't forget to keep your hands and cooking utensils clean, and use a meat cheat sheet to figure out whether ort not your beef is done. Beef should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71.1 degrees Celsius), chicken and other poultry at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82.2 degrees Celsius), and fish to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) [source: MedlinePlus].