Sunshine, food and friends are the perfect mix for a super 4th of July celebration.
Or are they?
Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from contaminated foods. Often the problem stems from simple food safety mistakes. Most cases occur during the summer picnic season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The major culprits are salmonella and campylobacter, types of bacteria often found in undercooked meats, raw eggs and produce.
To minimize risk, follow these simple tips:
Top 4th of July food safety tips
- Cook foods to the proper temperature. Guessing doesn’t cut it. Color and texture can be deceiving so use a food thermometer, especially when cooking meat. Follow recommended cooking temperatures.
- Frequently wash hands and surfaces. Bacteria can survive on your hands, utensils, cutting board and countertops. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. Thoroughly clean any surface where food will be handled.
- Refrigerate foods promptly. Cold foods should not be exposed to the summer heat for more than one hour. When indoors, refrigerate cold food items within two hours.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods during preparation. It’s also important to separate these items from others in your grocery cart when shopping and when storing in your refrigerator.
Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said cold foods should be held at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and hot foods at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Foods should not be allowed to sit at room temperature, she added.
Some foods require extra precautions, she said.
“If making foods like coleslaw and potato salad from scratch, be sure to cool them to 41 degrees Fahrenheit within four hours, especially if not all ingredients were cold,” Amato said.
She also advises keeping food protected with lids, foil or plastic wrap during parties and backyard BBQs.
Symptoms of food poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue and fever. They often are present within hours of eating contaminated foods. Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening for the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems. Contact your medical provider if you suspect someone has a food-borne illness.
Don’t take shortcuts when preparing food for your patriotic party. Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. A good rule of thumb: If you’re not sure if the food has spoiled, throw it out.
Follow these important 4th of July food safety recommendations and keep everybody happy and healthy! Have an enjoyable freedom day bash!