Grilling Foods Safely for July 4th Weekend, Rest of Summer

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July 2, 2020

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During the long 4th of July holiday and throughout the summer, grilling food safely should be of concern for families in South Florida.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), foodborne illnesses, also known as food poisoning, seems to increase during this time. The two main reasons are that bacteria multiplies faster in warmer weather and second, it is difficult to prepare food safely when you prepare it outside.

It is important to take extra precautions when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and egg products on the grill. Warm weather provides a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause food-borne illness.

It is not only meats you have to worry about, occasionally raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful germs, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can make you and your family sick. Nearly half of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. are caused by germs on fresh produce, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The safest produce is cooked; the next safest is washed, the CDC states.

Always wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water — even if you do not plan to eat the peel —so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut, the CDC states. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.

Here are more helpful grilling tips (also see infographic from the CDC below):

Before the barbecue:

  1. At the grocery store, pick up meat last. Keep raw meat away from other food products in your cart. During checkout, ask the clerk to wrap meat and poultry in plastic bags. Those steps should prevent raw meat juices (which may contain harmful bacteria) from dripping on other products.
  2. Get your packages home as soon as possible. Refrigerate all perishable items within two hours inside and within 60 minutes when outdoor temperatures are above 90°F, according to federal health authorities.
  3. Work with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Inspect your cooking equipment, including the grill and meat brushes.
  4. Place marinating food in the fridge. Sauces used to marinate raw meat and poultry should be tossed, and not used on cooked food. Do not taste the marinade or re-use it after raw meat has been added.
  5. Preheat the grill. Fire up the coals for 20 to 30 minutes before you start cooking.

At the Grill:

  1. The CDC recommends cooking chicken and meat throughly, using a thermometer designed for meat to test internal temperatures. 7. 7. Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F, steaks and roasts to 145 ºF-160 ºF, and poultry until it reaches 165°F, according to Safe Food Handling: Seven Super Steps to Safe Food In the Summer, a government publication.

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