GRAFTON, Mass. - The Fourth of July is the unofficial launch of barbecue season. No, wait— is it Bar-B-Que, or BBQ?
Anyway, if you are hosting a backyard bash this summer, it’s important to keep your guests safe from undercooked hamburgers or potato salad sitting in the sun for too long.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from contaminated food, 3,000 of who die. Although the USDA said the food supply is safe overall, proper handling and storage of perishable items is important.
Thanks to Health Agent Lois Luniewicz from the Grafton Board of Health, here are six tips to keep everyone safe this summer:
- Cook all meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This assures any bacteria will be killed. If you don’t own a meat thermometer, buy one. The USDA said 1 in 4 brown hamburgers are still undercooked and judging by sight is not reliable. Attention medium-rare steak lovers: you’re on your own.
- Wash your hands before handling food, especially ready to eat salads. It is easy to transfer bacteria from your hands to uncooked food like fruit and salad. Most people don’t use food service gloves at home (although they are available at office supply stores), so washing hands before starting to prep, then again after handling raw meat, is the best defense.
- Keep two cutting boards, one for meat and one for produce. Unless you thoroughly clean them till their sterile, a second one makes sense. And if you’re using an old wooden cutting board with deep grooves, consider buying a new one; those diggers are harder to clean bacteria away. Last, clean those used carving knives before chopping veggies and fruit.
- Inspect the red meat or fish before cooking. If there is discoloration or a funky smell return it to the store or throw it away. Likewise, seafood should not have a fishy odor nor look mushy. Only patronize a butcher or fish monger you know well and follows USDA guidelines.
- What comes from the fridge stays in the fridge. Or rather, should go back in soon. Any and all refrigerated items (Cole slaw, potato or green salad, cut fruit, and dairy based food) should not be unrefrigerated for more than two hours, and none should ever sit in the direct sun. Once your guests have been fed, put it away for later. Also, keep the raw meat and fish in the icebox till it is time to grill.
- Keep plenty of ice in the chest. Serving warm beer in the summer should be a crime against humanity, that’s why everyone keeps it at the bottom of the cooler. If you use a cooler packed with ice make sure the food is UNDER the ice, not on top. If the ice melts, add more.
Richard Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org