COVID-19 and maintaining physical distancing during Fourth of July events are at the forefront this year, but it is also important to keep food safety in mind during your celebrations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne illness from bacteria peaks during the summer months.
Bacteria multiply rapidly with warm temperatures, thus food that has been compromised by temperature and kept outside during warm weather without proper thermal control provides ideal conditions for bacteria growth. Moreover, the lack of thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities when cooking outdoors further contribute to the risk of foodborne illness from improper cooking and cross-contamination between foods or food contact surfaces.
Below are steps you can take to keep your Fourth of July cookout from creating unintended fireworks.
Promptly refrigerate meat, poultry, and other perishable foods after shopping.
Freeze meat and poultry that will not be used within the next 48 hours.
Make sure your refrigerator is at the proper temperature (less than 40 F)
Store meat in a pan with sides, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep drippings from contaminating other food.
Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, or in sealed packages under cold water.
Meat defrosted in the microwave needs to be cooked immediately.
If marinating meat, do it in the refrigerator and never on the counter. Discard marinades after they have been in contact with raw meat.
Keep food cold
When transporting foods, always keep meat in a separate cooler filled with ice and away from ready-to-eat foods, such as condiments, produce and salads.
Never leave meat or poultry (cooked or un-cooked) or other perishable foods at temperatures between 40-140 F for longer than 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 F.
Place side dishes, such as potato salad or condiments, on ice and discard if exposed to temperatures between 40-140 F for longer than 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
Wash hands thoroughly, before and after handling food, with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
Do not use cutting boards, knives, or utensils on ready to eat foods after being in contact with raw meat unless they have been thoroughly washed in hot soapy water first.
Never use the same dish or utensils to transport both raw and cooked meats unless thoroughly washed in hot soapy water in-between.
Cook at the right temperature
Always check for doneness by using a meat thermometer. It is the only way to know if the meat is cooked enough to kill the bacteria that may be lurking inside. Meat color is not an indicator of doneness as meat can often change color well before it has reached the proper internal temperature required for safety.-- 145 F - whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (must have a resting time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
145 F – fish
160 F – hamburgers and other ground meat-- 165 dF – all poultry and pre-cooked meats (e.g. hot dogs)
Keep meat above 140 F until served
Following these tips will ensure your holiday cookout is a success. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.
Dr. Stephanie Smith is an assistant professor and statewide consumer food specialist for Washington State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.