Simple tips can help make outdoor meals safer

Published 9:38 am Friday, May 27, 2016

Metro Services  Cookouts and picnics can be a fun way to spend a Summer day but make sure food is properly stored and prepared to the right temperature to avoid illnesses that could ruin the fun.

Metro Services
Cookouts and picnics can be a fun way to spend a Summer day but make sure food is properly stored and prepared to the right temperature to avoid illnesses that could ruin the fun.

While spending a sunny afternoon on a picnic or at a cookout can be fun, the joy can soon fade if a foodborne illness makes an uninvited visit to the party.
Summer not only brings out the grills and picnic baskets, it also brings out the bacteria which love the hot humid days of summer and can lead to foodborne illnesses.
One of the most common mistakes made during a picnic is not storing food properly, according to April Pierce, who serves as the Tennessee Nutrition and Consumer Education Program coordinator at the Carter County UT Agricultural Extention office.
“They leave things out uncovered or not chilled,” Pierce explained. “You get a lot of health problems or sickness associated with that.”
Making sure foods that are supposed to be served cold remain cold is important to help prevent the growth of bacteria.
“As soon as you serve the items it’s a good idea to put it back in the cooler so you don’t forget,” Pierce said. “Foods with perishable items like eggs or dairy products should always be returned to the cooler as soon as possible.”
When it comes to grilling, Pierce said once again temperature plays an important role in food safety.
“It is pretty important to make sure we are cooking items to the correct temperature,” she said.
Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fact on the outside, so Pierce recommends using a meat thermometer to make sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following safe minimal internal temperatures for preparing meats: 165 degrees for poultry, 160 degrees for ground meats other than poultry, and 145 degrees for beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) and then allow meat to rest for three minutes before serving.
The key to a safe and smooth picnic or cookout, Pierce said, is preparation.
“Prep work is the biggest thing to grilling, especially if you are having a cookout at the lake or on the boat or while camping,” she said. “If you prepare the day before it helps make sure you have enough room in your cooler and that you have everything you need.”
Here are some more summer food safety tips Pierce shared, which she said come from the USDA:
• Keep it clean. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you’re eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap, and paper towels or have disposable wipes or hand sanitizer available.
• Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.
• Keep raw food separate. Keep your barbecue safe by keeping raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler. Don’t use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.
• Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Keep hot food at 140 degrees or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, or wrapped well in an insulated container. Keep cold food at 40 degrees or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time, out of direct sun, and avoid opening the lid often.

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