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Man standing near a grill with an apron on.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Memorial Day jump starts summer fun and activities. Friends, families and grilling make for a memorable holiday. Janice Hall, a regional food safety agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, reminds people to be aware of safe food handling practices.

“If we don’t handle and prepare foods in safe ways, we could make family, friends and ourselves sick,” said Hall.  “Food that is handled, prepared or stored incorrectly can harbor bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses.”

Food Safety Tips

Hall offers these tips on how to reduce the possibilities of foodborne illness.

  • Wash your hands. Make sure to wash your hands in between handling raw and ready to eat foods. Lather up with clean, warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds; rinse well and dry your hands with a single-use paper towel. Avoid using your apron or cloth towels. This can lead to bacteria getting back on your hands and potentially into the food. You can also use wipes designed for cleaning hands and hand sanitizers. Use hand sanitizers after washing your hands, not in the place of.  CAUTION:  Do not use disinfectant types of wipes for handwashing. These wipes are for cleaning and sanitizing nonfood contact surfaces and not hands or surfaces that will touch food.
  • Create your own handwashing station. If you do not have access to running water, have containers (cooler with a spout, jugs or bottles) of clean water, soap, paper towels, and trashcan or bag available. Use your handwashing station after handling meat and poultry and before handling cooked foods.
  • Keep it cold or keep it hot. Use separate coolers for hot foods, cold foods and beverages. Be sure to keep cold foods like potato salad, pasta salad, salsas and fruit salads on ice until ready to use. These foods need to stay below 40˚F. Also, do not eat or use the ice from containers that was used to keep food or drinks cold. When ice is used for storage, it should never be reused for consumption.
  • Is it done yet? Have a food thermometer available to check the temperature of meats. Follow these guidelines for cooking meats to minimum internal cooking temperatures.
    • Poultry (ex. chicken, turkey, etc): 165˚F
    • Ground meats, pork, lamb (ex. hamburgers): 160˚F
    • Fish: 145˚F
    • Beef, pork, lamb, veal (ex. steaks, roasts, chops): 145˚F with a three minute rest time
  • Do not cross contaminate. Use a clean plate and cooking utensils to take those burgers, steaks, and other meats off the grill. Never use the same plate that once held raw meat for foods that are ready to eat.
  • What about the leftovers? Food should not stay out for more than two hours. Take care to put away food as quickly as possible. Remember to keep foods cold (below 40˚F). You may need additional ice to ensure leftovers keep cold.

You can prevent foodborne illnesses by properly handling food at home or outdoors. Make Memorial Day and all upcoming outings memorable by practicing these four steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.

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