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Staying safe and healthy during summer cookouts

Memorial Day, which is considered the beginning of the summer vacation season, has passed and summer is only a few days away. It is a season of year when we include lots of fun activities that involve cooking and eating food outdoors.

When cooking and serving food outdoors, it is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling while preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and egg products.

The warmer weather conditions may be ideal for outdoor picnics and barbecues, but they also provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause food borne illness. Follow these suggestions to keep food safe and reduce the risk of food borne illness when cooking outdoors.

  • Wash your hands. Always, wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.

  • Marinating mandate - When marinating for long periods of time, it is important to keep foods refrigerated. On cooked food, don't use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry. Boil used marinade before applying to cooked food.

  • Hot, hot, hot. When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.

  • Temperature gauge - Use a food thermometer to insure that food reaches a safe internal temperature. Food thermometers are inexpensive and can be bought at most grocery and discount stores. Hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, while large cuts of beef, such as roasts and steaks, may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare to 160 degrees for medium. Cook poultry parts to 170 degrees. Poultry should not be eaten if it is pink in the center, if the juices are pink, or if the final internal cooking temperature is less than 170 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.

  • Stay away from that same old plate. When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.

  • Icebox etiquette - A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled. So it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature. Put food away as soon as possible and never leave food or drinks at room temperature for more than two hours.

    Spoiled food may look good, smell good, or taste good.

    When in doubt throw it out!

    Web posted on Thursday, June 1, 2006

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