As July 4th approaches, many are making special plans on how to celebrate the day and whether it’s a day on the lake, a cookout with family and friends, or just a lazy day at home, everyone needs to take special care with the foods they prepare for the occasion.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is urging everyone to take precautions with their food and to be food safe as they cook out this Fourth of July to keep the celebration free from illness-causing bacteria.
“FSIS has a number of resources to help consumers prevent foodborne illnesses at home,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears noted on the USDA website. “When gathering to celebrate our Independence Day, we urge Americans to follow our key food safety recommendations to keep their family and friends safe.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. But with taking key food safety steps that can be easily integrated into your cookout plans, hosts can provide everyone with a great time this Fourth of July.
Some of the steps listed on the USDA website are:
The easiest way to stop the spread of bacteria around the kitchen is by washing your hands. Before starting, make sure you wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Dry them with a clean towel or disposable paper towel.
Wash your hands immediately after handling meats and poultry. This is the best way to avoid cross-contamination of other foods, spice containers, or preparation surfaces.
Set your food station table with items that can help you keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. This will help to keep perishable items out of the danger zone (40-140 degrees).
Cooking to the Safe Temperature
Regardless of everyone’s tastes, it is important to ensure that all meat and poultry is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperatures as measured by a food thermometer.
Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees with a three-minute rest time
Fish: 145 degrees
Ground meats (beef, lamb, veal, pork): 160 degrees
Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165 degrees
Keeping Food Safe
If you plan to have a burger or hot dog toppings bar with items like mayo, sliced tomatoes or avocado, be sure to keep them cold by placing them on a tray of ice. Be sure to replenish the ice as needed.
Perishable food items should not be left outside for more than two hours if the temperature is at or below 90 degrees, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90 degrees.
Any leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are at or above 90 degrees) of being placed outside. If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out immediately.
If you need more food safety information, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.