AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Summertime cookouts are filled with fun and family, especially those on or near national holidays. This fourth of July, serve up some food safety basics alongside your homemade potato salad or pulled pork platter.
Alabama Extension regional food safety agent Janice Hall said there are four basic steps to follow in order to prevent the start and spread of foodborne illnesses.
Fun Fourth Favorites
Hall said her favorite things about the fourth of July all happen to begin with an ‘F.’ Family, food fun and fireworks are her favorite part of celebrating Independence Day.
Hall loves steaks on the grill but said her favorite vegetable is grilled corn. Place ears of corn in the husks on the grill and cover. Cook 15-20 minutes, turning every five minutes. Allow corn to cool, shuck and enjoy.
She also practices food safety at home and at gatherings.
“If we don’t handle and prepare foods in safe ways, we could make family, friends and ourselves sick,” Hall said. “Food that is handled, prepared or stored incorrectly can harbor bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses.”
Fourth of July Food Safety
- Wash your hands. Make sure to wash your hands in between handling raw and ready to eat foods. Lather up with clean, warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and dry your hands with a single-use paper towel. Avoid using your apron or cloth towels. This can lead to bacteria getting back on your hands and potentially into the food. You can also use wipes designed for cleaning hands and hand sanitizers. Use hand sanitizers after washing your hands, not to replace hand washing. CAUTION: Do not use disinfectant types of wipes for handwashing. These wipes are for cleaning and sanitizing nonfood contact surfaces and not hands or surfaces that will touch food.
- Create your own handwashing station. If you do not have access to running water, have containers (cooler with a spout, jugs or bottles) of clean water, soap, paper towels, and trashcan or bag available. Use your handwashing station after handling meat and poultry and before handling cooked foods.
- Do not cross contaminate. Use a clean plate and cooking utensils to take those burgers, steaks, and other meats off the grill. Never use the same plate that once held raw meat for foods that are ready to eat.
- Use this shopping tip. Keep raw and ready to eat food separate in the shopping cart and in grocery bags. Placing meats in plastic bags will help reduce the risk of bacteria getting on other foods that will not be cooked.
- Is it done yet? Have a food thermometer available to check the temperature of meats. Follow these guidelines for cooking meats to minimum internal cooking temperatures.
- Poultry (ex. chicken, turkey, etc): 165˚F
- Ground meats, pork, lamb (ex. hamburgers): 160˚F
- Fish: 145˚F
- Beef, pork, lamb, veal (ex. steaks, roasts, chops): 145˚F with a three-minute rest time
- Keep it cold or keep it hot. Use separate coolers for hot foods, cold foods and beverages. Be sure to keep cold foods like potato salad, pasta salad, salsas and fruit salads on ice until ready to use. These foods need to stay below 40˚F. Also, do not eat or use the ice from containers used to keep food or drinks cold. When ice is used for storage, it should never be reused for consumption.
- What about the leftovers? Food should not stay out for more than two hours. Take care to put away food as quickly as possible. Remember to keep foods cold (below 40˚F). You may need additional ice to ensure leftovers keep cold.
Find more information on food safety by visiting Alabama Extension online.