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Outdoor Food Safety Tips for Your Summer Barbecue


By Bree Shirvell

The sunny days of summer bring hot temperatures, outdoor gatherings and unfortunately an increased risk of food poisoning.

Warm temperatures provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness. Soon more people will be cooking outside and the safety controls that a kitchen provides — thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities — are usually not available.

Don’t let foodborne illness be an uninvited guest to your summer meal – here are some tips to keep you and your family safe this summer.

1. Clean your hands and surfaces often. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.  Headed to the beach or park? Pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t available. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food. Clean your grill before and after each use.

2. Separate raw food from ready-to-eat foods. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling and serving food is a prim cause of foodborne illness. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held raw meat or poultry before using them again for cooked food (such as raw versus cooked hamburgers and hot dogs). When packing the cooler chest for an outing, wrap raw meats securely; avoid raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food.

3. Cook foods to safe temperatures.  Food safety experts agree that food is safely cooked when it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The only way to know this is by using a food thermometer; you can’t judge doneness by color alone. Cook your burgers to an internal temperature of at least160°F, poultry to 165°F. Defrost and marinate all foods in the refrigerator, and cook your meat completely at your picnic site –partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.

4. Chill foods within a certain time frame. Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F). It might not be safe to eat food left out of refrigeration for more than one to two hours. If you have any doubts, throw it out.

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Happy grilling!