The Central Virginian

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Food safety tips for the summer cookout

Posted on Friday, July 4, 2014 at 9:01 am

Summer’s here—it’s time to slip on a pair of flip-flops and don your favorite grilling apron with that one-of-a-kind catchy slogan.

You know the one. Maybe it’s “King of the Grill,” “Come and Get It” or “Grill Sergeant.” It’s well-worn, and resembles a road map outlined in barbecue stains.

You’re not alone. According to a study by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 80 percent of U.S. households own a grill or smoker. The study found that 60 percent of grillers report using their grills year-round.

Cooking outdoors may provide a sense of relaxation and calm, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds those cooking outdoors to focus on the necessary steps to ensure food safety.

It’s important to remember no one can earn the title of grill master without these four steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Introducing some possible new slogans for that apron:

Keepin’ it real … clean

Before preparing and handling food, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (Lacking a timer, try singing “Happy Birthday” twice while slowly cleaning your hands). Also, make certain all surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked food are clean before you start, and are washed frequently throughout your cookout.

Raw vs. cooked: go to their separate corners

Be aware of cross-contamination. Keep the raw meat and poultry away from cooked foods. Use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils in preparing veggies and meat and poultry. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw veggies and already cooked foods.

You can’t judge a burger by its looks: cook with a food thermometer

Rather than a sign of weakness, a food thermometer is the best way to ensure your grilled foods are safe to consume. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill can be tricky. They may look done on the outside, but it is critical that they have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella is estimated to cause about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in approximately 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. The food-borne illness can be avoided by cooking foods to a safe internal temperature.

To read the entire story, see the July 3 edition of The Central Virginian.

Courtesy of BrandPoint