Keeping Food Safety In Mind This 4th of July
The Fourth of July, a day which celebrates the Nation’s independence, also is notable, or even notorious, for including an outdoor barbecue with family and friends – an occasion in the hot summer that is a prime opportunity for food borne pathogens to take hold and spread. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, 68% of U.S. adults cook out on the Fourth of July. And people are especially looking forward to the opportunity to gather together this year as the restrictive COVID requirements are loosened (and in some cases discarded).
But amidst the fun and bustle of having people over, it is important to remember to practice the same food safety standards when cooking outdoors as when cooking in the kitchen, whether at hoe of commercially, particularly when preparing meat and raw sides at the same time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illness each year. Although the vast majority of people who contract foodborne illness recover without severe complications, the most common germs, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, can cause severe symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and nausea which last anywhere from a few hours to over a week. Because heat provides a beneficial environment for many foodborne germs, cases of foodborne illness typically spike during the summer months. However, these always unpleasant and sometimes dangerous foodborne illnesses can be avoided by following a few important food safety practices, especially when cooking out of doors.
From the moment consumers pick out meat, poultry, or seafood from the grocery store, to the surfaces and utensils used to prepare them, patrons must be sure to separate them from other foods, especially those that will be eaten raw, in order to avoid cross-contamination. Be careful not to splatter meat juices or marinades onto other surfaces or foods.
Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill them. When transporting, keep meat, poultry, and seafood in an insulated cooler at or below 40°F.
Wash hands before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as any surfaces or utensils they came into contact with, including the grill and grilling utensils.
Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, and seafood are cooked to the proper internal temperature before removing from grill. Even after cooking, meat should maintain an internal temperature of 140°F or warmer until ready to serve.
Leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking or within 1 hour if exposed to a temperature outside of 90°F or above.
For further information regarding safe grilling practices this 4th of July, see the CDC’s article on “How to Grill Safely”.