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Make Outdoor Cooking Safe This Fourth of July and All Summer Long

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Make Outdoor Cooking Safe This Fourth of July and All Summer Long

The warm summer weather is a perfect time for outdoor gatherings with family and loved ones. This Fourth of July, millions of people across the U.S. will celebrate the holiday with outdoor grilling. With all this outdoor fun, take caution to make sure your food is safe!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that each year 48 million people get sick and 128,000 get hospitalized from food borne illnesses in the U.S. Summer temperatures are hot and humid, which is the ideal condition for bacteria to grow quickly. Most foodborne bacteria grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 °F.

The most common bacteria that causes food poisoning is salmonella, which can develop in undercooked meats. Other common bacteria that can cause illness are E. coli, which can be found in undercooked meats and raw vegetables; and listeria, which can grow in soft cheeses, deli meats and hot dogs.

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) Registered Dietitian Ashley Jungkman says that with simple proper food handling techniques, many people can enjoy outdoor grilling without worrying about illness.

Temperature control is an important aspect for keeping foods safe. If you’re cooking outdoors, away from your kitchen refrigerator, bring coolers full of fresh ice to keep meat and other food items cold.

Be aware of cross contamination. Cross contamination is a common cause of bacteria that results in food poisoning in outdoor cooking areas. The bacterial contamination can happen when the same plates or utensils are used for raw and cooked meats.

Here are a few basic food handling safety tips:

  • Keep cold foods cold, below 40° and hot foods hot, above 140°F
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meats reach the correct internal cooking temperature (see chart below)
  • Don’t leave fresh food out for more than two hours – just one hour if it’s 90 degrees or above
  • Everything must be clean, your hands, pots, pans, plates and cooking utensils
  • Wash hands in between handling raw foods

By following these basic food handling tips, you can ensure that you and your guests can enjoy your summer meals in the great outdoors safely.