Whether you’re grilling out, packing a picnic, or getting a snack together to eat while you watch fireworks, there are some simple steps you can take that will reduce the chance of getting a foodborne illness. “One food safety essential is making sure food is at the proper temperature, whether it’s cooking it to the right temperature on the grill, or keeping it cold,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah.
There is a Danger Zone, when food sits at temperature between 40°F and 140°F, which is when bacteria grow most rapidly. Keeping at the proper temperature, making sure there is no cross-contamination, and keeping hands and utensils clean are key to avoiding foodborne illness. It can be difficult to keep food cold during the summer. Keep your cooler below 40°F is to pack beverages in one cooler and food in another. Chances are the cooler with the beverages will be opened much more frequently, causing the temperature to change, which would be bad for food.
Food should also be separated in the cooler: raw meat and poultry should be separate from fruits, vegetables, cheeses, salads, and even cooked foods. This will help avoid cross contamination.
The juices of raw meat can mingle with foods that are ready to eat and you could end up with a Salmonella sandwich instead of a hamburger on a bun. The cooler should be in the shade and out of the direct sun.
Whether you’re cooking on the grill or in a kitchen, make sure food reaches the proper
temperature. And don’t just eyeball the color of the meat. That doesn’t always indicate the level of properly temped foods. Use a meat thermometer.
145°F- whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal
145°F fish 160°F - hamburgers and other ground beef
165°F - all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
Make sure to use clean utensils and clean plate when you take food off the grill. Using the same utensils and plate that you did for the raw meat could add an unintended E. coli marinade to your food. Clean your hands before preparing food and eating.
Also make sure all leftovers are refrigerated or put on ice within two hours after cooking, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 F. Don’t let that potato salad bake in the sun and become a source of sickness.
More food safety tips or information about foodborne illnesses and symptoms can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website https://www.cdc.gov/