Family having a picnic in a park

It’s finally summer, which means it’s the perfect time to celebrate with barbecues and picnics. Outdoor gatherings are on the rise after the pandemic as families and friends find safe ways to be together. But one unexpected thing can kill a party—food borne illness. Bacteria growth on food is more common than you may think, and it’s caused by improper food handling. Here’s an easy way to remember the 6 leading factors to avoid and stay safe. Just use the acronym FAT TOM, which stands for Food, Acidity, Temperature, Time, Oxygen, and Moisture.

The Leading Causes of Food Borne Illness

  • Food: The type of food you’re eating has a lot to do with the speed of bacteria growth. It can also affect whether or not the bacteria could cause a food borne illness. Poultry, red meat, and egg-based foods are more likely to cause illness if not handled and stored properly.
  • Acidity: The more acid a food contains, the less chances there are for bacterial growth. These may be best to pack for your next picnic.
  • Temperature: Did you know that there is a temperature “Danger Zone?” Bacteria grows faster when the temperature of food is between 40 ℉ and 140 ℉. Keep cold foods cold and keep hot foods hot. Summer in Florida is extremely hot, so keep cold foods on ice to maintain their temperature outdoors.
  • Time: The amount of time that food is held in the “Danger Zone” has an effect on bacteria growth. Food held at that temperature for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. That’s why it’s important to keep food in a cooler or at cooking temperature as much as possible.
  • Oxygen: Have you noticed that vacuum sealed items usually stay safe to eat longer than others? That’s because oxygen fuels bacteria production. Seal your foods as tightly as possible to give bacteria less of a chance to grow.
  • Moisture: Unfortunately, a higher moisture content can allow for rapid bacteria growth. It’s okay to have these for an outdoor meal, but seal them and keep them at the proper temperature to decrease food borne illness.

Enjoy Your Summer Safely

We hope that you enjoy your outdoor picnics and barbecues this year! After a long and sometimes lonely pandemic, it’s exciting to be able to gather together again. Don’t let food borne illness ruin your summer fun—make smart food decisions and stay safe out there!

As summer also brings more travel, we’re here to help you after any vehicle crashes. If you’re hurt in an accident, contact Brooks Law Group. Our attorneys are ready to help you with car accidents, slip and falls, or any accident you’re in through no fault of your own. Call us today for a free consultation.


Steve was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As was the practice for new doctors his father worked day and night during his medical residency at Charity Hospital there. Steve comes from a long line of doctors. His father, his grandfather, his great grandfather, even two uncles were all specialists and/or surgeons in their chosen medical specialties, including internal medicine specialist, obstetrics / gynecology, neurosurgery and general practice / surgery. His great-great grandfather was the Surgeon General of Ohio during the Civil War.