ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season, and each year millions of Americans celebrate the holiday to honor the sacrifices that so many have made to protect our country. A large number of people choose to celebrate outdoors by grilling. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends you follow some simple food safety tips to keep your outdoor activities safe.
Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.
Bringing food to a picnic or cookout:
- Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
- Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
- A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
- Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.
Cooking on the grill:
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
- Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
- Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
- Ground meats: 160 °F
- Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
- Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
Serving food outdoors:
- Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
- Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 °F or warmer.
- Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
You may have everything you need in your kitchen to prepare food safely, but the same may not be true for grilling outdoors.
“Prepare your outdoor spaces so they are food safe. If you won’t have running water, use hand sanitizer or moist towelettes to keep your hands clean before, during, and after food preparation,” says USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Paul Kiecker.
The most effective way to stay safe before and after handling food is washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
If you have to use hand sanitizer, make sure to choose one that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Moist towelettes and paper towels can help keep cutting boards or utensils cleaner, but soap and hot water are the best way to get rid of germs or bacteria.
To learn more about key food safety practices visit FoodSafey.gov and follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter. If you have specific food safety questions this summer, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.