Get Well Wednesday: How To Keep Your Cookout Safe

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We’re heading into the Memorial Day weekend and kicking off of grilling season. The USDA’s Janell Goodwin has info on protecting ourselves from foodborne illness.

HOW SERIOUS ARE CASES OF SO-CALLED FOOD POISONING OR FOODBORNE ILLNESSES?

There are about 48 million cases of food poisoning each year. That’s 1 in 6 people this year alone who will become sick from a foodborne related illness. For some, foodborne illnesses can even become fatal, resulting in 3,000 deaths a year. Many of these illnesses are completely preventable just by using safe food handling practices.

WHY DO FOODBORNE ILLNESSES INCREASE DURING COOKOUT SEASON?

Food poisoning peaks during warmer months because bacteria have more opportunity to grow. During the summer people naturally spend more time outdoors for things like cookouts and picnics. It’s important to know how to handle food properly during outdoor activities to protect you and your loved ones from foodborne illness.

EXPLAIN WHY WE ALL NEED TO GET A FOOD THERMOMETER FOR GRILLING OUR MEATS.

Using a food thermometer is the only way to tell when foods are done. Unlike many people think, you cannot tell your burgers are done just by looking at them. Cooking them to a safe internal temperature and using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure they’re completely safe!  

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR GRILLING LIKE A “PRO”?

You can’t see harmful bacteria on your burgers, chicken and steak. So again, using a food thermometer is the only way to know that your food is safe to eat. The USDA recommends using the PRO method so that you are Grilling Like a PRO this summer.

P—Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.

R—Read the temperature.

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F (63°C)
  • Ground meats: 160°F (71°C)
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165°F (74°C)

O—Off the Grill!

WE’VE ALL HEARD YOU CAN’T EAT EVERYBODY’S POTATO SALAD. HOW DO YOU KEEP FOOD LIKE THAT SAFE TO EAT?

It’s important to make sure cold foods that are being served stay cold! Serve cold dishes in small portions and keep them on a bed of ice to help them stay cold longer. Store cold dishes that aren’t being served in ice-filled coolers to keep them safe.

WHEN IT COMES TO LEAVING FOOD OUT… HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?

Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. When the temperature outside is 90°F or above, this time reduces to just one hour. If food is left out for too long, bacteria can begin to multiply rapidly, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes!

Janell answers your Text Tom questions below: 

I’m told not I shouldn’t clean chicken. Is this true?

Yes. The only way to destroy possible bacteria is to cook it to a safe internal temperature. Washing chicken actually spreads raw juices up to two feet away from your sink, contaminating other surfaces!

What’s the temperature for pork?

Whole pork should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145°F with a 3-minute rest time. Ground pork should reach 160°F.

What about grills at the park??? You really can’t clean those. How should you handle them?

When grilling away from home you should plan to use aluminum foil to cover the grill grates. You’ll have a better quality product by avoiding all the buildup from previous users on public grills.

How do you keep food poisoning down to a minimum? 

You can prevent foodborne illness by simply following the four steps of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. You can find more details about these four steps by heading over to FoodSafety.gov.

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