Monday, June 20, 2016


Food safety tips for picnics and BBQs

Roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick annually from the food they eat. Reducing food borne illness by 10 percent would keep five million Americans from getting sick each year. Individuals in their own homes can help keep food safe by following the four principles of food safety: CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK and CHILL.

• CLEAN: Proper hand washing, a clean work area, and clean produce are key factors in the prevention of food borne illness.

Regularly washing hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds is the most effective way to kill germs. A soap product that claims to kill 99.90 percent of all germs is not more effective, nor does it work faster than other soaps.

When handling raw meat, wash dishes in warm soapy water, then soak in a solution of one tablespoon bleach per gallon of clean water for 10 minutes. Another batch of this solution can be used to disinfect stainless steel, plastic and other non-porous surfaces. Sponges can harbor potentially harmful bacteria, use disposable towels instead.

Produce is attributed to 46 percent of all food borne illness in the United States. The surface of a melon may look clean but slicing through an unwashed rind can transfer harmful bacteria to the edible portion. Therefore, it is important to wash all produce and scrub rough-skinned produce before chopping or slicing.

• SEPARATE: Always keep raw meat separate from produce and service ware. To significantly reduce the risk of cross contamination: purchase a raw-meat only cutting board, color-code so cookware used for raw meat is not used for other items, and immediately discard marinades used for raw meat. Do not use wooden utensils and bowls because the porous surface can hold on to potentially harmful bacteria.

• COOK: To ensure meat cooks evenly, preheat the grill and create two heat zones. A good tip is to position thicker portions of meat closer to the flame. Do not cook directly over the flame because that will result in a burnt exterior and undercooked interior.

To determine doneness, let whole cuts of meat rest for three to five minutes, and then insert a food-grade thermometer in to the thickest portion. If the safe minimum temperature is not reached within 15 seconds of inserting the thermometer, put it back on the grill.

Food / Safe Minimum Temperature (°F)
Poultry, whole and ground           165
Ground Meat (excluding poultry) 160
Steaks, roasts, and chops            145
Fish                                            145

• CHILL: All refrigerated foods and raw meat should be kept at or below 40 degrees. Bacteria can begin to multiply when frozen and refrigerated foods are warmer than 40 degrees. Meat should be unthawed in the refrigerator or under cool running water. Never unthaw meat on the counter.

Keep cold food on ice beneath a tent or shaded area. Cover dishes and service ware to keep flies and other pests away and note when the food is put outside so you know if it is still safe to eat.

Food is not safe to eat when it has been in the danger zone of 40-140 degrees for more than two hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 degrees). If you are unsure, the safest thing to do is throw it away.

If you follow the principles outlined in this article you will help keep food safe at picnics and BBQs this summer. For more information and answers to specific food safety questions:

• Visit:
• Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) TTY: 1-800-256-7072 or email

Brenda Viens is a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Viens or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?