Tips for avoiding foodborne illness on July 4th

For those planning to pull out the grill for the July 4th holiday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has some tips to help you avoid foodborne illnesses.

Sandra Eskin, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, said as temperatures rise, so do the risk for foodborne illnesses.

“Wherever you go this summer, don’t forget to bring your safe food handling practices along for the adventure,” Eskin said.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Be sure to avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat. Also wash utensils and containers that touched raw meat. In a recent USDA observational study, 32% of participants contaminated plates and cutting boards and 12% contaminated spice containers while preparing food.

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

The USDA said food is in the “Danger Zone” when it is in the temperature range of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can multiply if food is in the danger zone for too long.

Discard perishable food if it’s left out for more than two hours “or one hour if outdoor or indoor temperatures in the area are above 90F.” The warmer the temperature, the sooner food needs to be refrigerated.

Use a Food Thermometer

USDA research showed that just 55% of participant in the control group relied on a food thermometer to determine if the food was safe to consume.

The department called this statistic alarming, and encourages everyone to use a meat thermometer instead of cues like color, firmness and taste.

  • Cook beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Cook fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook egg dishes to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook poultry (whole or ground) to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Clean and Sanitize
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. A recent USDA study showed that 56% of participants didn’t attempt to wash their hands when preparing to cook a meal.

“Always remember that whether you’re grilling for the Fourth of July, camping, or boating, you should wash your hands before and during food prep,” said Eskin. Keep in mind that hand sanitizer is not as effective as handwashing. Also be sure to clean surfaces that raw meat and poultry have touched.

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