Follow these food safety tips for July 4th cookouts, other summer fun

June 26, 2017
  • By Martha Michael
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Summer is a popular time to take your food and dining outdoors. Stay safe by following the USDA’s food safety guidelines. CHRIS HUNT / SPECIAL

No summer is complete without backyard barbecues, cookouts and picnics. However, there are certain risks to keep in mind when preparing and eating food outside, especially in Georgia’s hot weather.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million people contract foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends following these tips to keep your summer meals safe from beginning to end:

Food can be thawed in the refrigerator, and will safely last an additional day or two before cooking. When thawing food in a microwave, cook it immediately after thawing; do not place it back in the refrigerator. When thawing food in cold water, seal the food in leak-proof packaging or a plastic bag and submerge in a container under cold tap water. Replace the water every 30 minutes.

Food thermometers can be purchased at most grocery or kitchen equipment stores. Follow instructions to properly calibrate the thermometer, then place it into the thickest part of the food. While using a food thermometer takes getting used to, these inexpensive tools ensure dangerous bacteria are destroyed and can prevent any overcooking of meat, Magoulas said. Also be sure to clean the thermometer between uses.

Use a food thermometer to make sure your meat, poultry and fish reach the recommended internal temperature to ensure dangerous pathogens are eliminated. CONTRIBUTED Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fish and whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the internal temperature has been reached, these meats should be removed from heat and allowed to “rest” for three minutes. During this period, the internal temperature will rise or remain constant, which will kill remaining pathogens.

Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach an internal temperatures of 160 degrees; poultry should reach a minimum 165 degrees. Hot dogs should be heated to steaming hot.

“While some foods do spoil quicker than others, like milk or soft cheeses, all food should be discarded if it’s left out for over two hours,” Magoulas said. “Any longer than that gets very risky. Bacterial growth increases exponentially every half hour.”

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