Reduce food safety risks with summer meals
Warm weather is the perfect invitation to move meals outdoors, yet cooking out or grilling is not without risks.
Cook meats thoroughly
Experts say that common food safety mistakes, especially underestimating cooking times or overlooking the need to check cooked temperatures, increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Meat scientists and researchers at Kansas State University determined that ground beef browns at different rates, so that browning, long considered an indication that ground beef is cooked, is no longer an accurate indicator of doneness.
Check doneness with a thermometer
With meats and poultry, the only sure way to test safety and doneness is by using a meat thermometer. Primary foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli 0157:H7, are heat sensitive. That means that cooking foods to recommended temperatures will kill any pathogens that may be present.
For ground beef, the recommended cooked temperature is 160 degrees F. For beef, veal and lamb roasts, steaks and chops, and all pork, medium is 160 degrees F. and well done is 170 degrees F. All poultry should reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. Increase cooking time for frozen or partially frozen meats.
Food safety tips for summer
Experts recommend the following tips to keep your summer meals safe:
- Use a grill according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Allow plenty of time to prepare the grill and cook foods completely.
- Avoid cross contamination: use separate plates, platters, bowls, cutting boards and utensils for raw foods and cooked foods. In other words, don't carry cooked foods to the table on the same platter used for carrying the raw meats or poultry to the grill.
- Wait until grilled foods are ready - or almost ready to eat - before removing perishable salads and condiments from the refrigerator or cooler. If foods are allowed to sit out on a picnic table unnecessarily, the risk of contamination, either from the food itself or microorganisms (staph is an example) that may be in the environment, increases.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables, including leaf lettuce, which can host salmonella. Adding an unwashed lettuce leaf or tomato slice to a cooked hamburger may contaminate it.
- Keep food covered and out of direct sunlight.
- Watch holding time and clear the picnic table within 60 minutes or less; cover and chill leftovers or discard them, rather than risk foodborne illness.
- Clean the grill after each use.
- Wash hands frequently, especially before and after handling raw and cooked foods, before and after eating, playing catch or croquet, and petting the dog. If water is unavailable, a bottled hand sanitizer can substitute.