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Avoid food-borne illness during summer barbecue season

June 22, 2011 - Carla Tracy

People in Hawaii fire up gas and kiawe-wood barbecues all year long. But with summer here, more cookouts are happening as the days are longer and the kids are off school.

Cooking outdoors is a fun and tasty way to eat a meal, however it can be deadly, according to Phil Lempert, a leading food safety expert and editor of and The Lempert Report.

“Each year millions of illnesses in this country can be traced to foodborne bacteria,” Lempert says. “Warmer weather spoils food faster and cross contamination by utensils and platters touching both raw and cooked food can cause grave danger.”

“It is especially important to take extra precautions and practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood products,” says Lempert. “The warmer weather conditions provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness.”

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that two to three percent of all foodborne illnesses lead to secondary long-term illnesses. For example, certain strains of E.coli can cause kidney failure in young children and infants; Salmonella can lead to reactive arthritis and serious infections; Campylobacter may be the most common precipitating factor for Guillain-Barre syndrome; and Listeria can cause meningitis and stillbirths.

Lempert offers these tips for a safe cookout:

• When traveling with food, be sure to pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into a cooler to keep them cold. Meat and poultry may be packed while still frozen. To prevent cross-contamination, which can happen when juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood drip onto other foods, put perishables into sealed plastic bags.

• When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.

• When marinating food, keep it refrigerated and covered in plastic.

• Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food and clean it after each use. Hamburgers, roasts and steaks should be cooked to 160º F. Cook ground poultry to 165° F and poultry parts to 170° F. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.

• Don't use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked foods. Never taste marinade or sauce that was used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood unless it was heated to the boiling point first.

• Use two sets of barbecue utensils or repeatedly clean utensils after it touches the cooking food.

• When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.

• When cleaning up, use hot water, soap and paper towels to wipe the counters and platters. Sponges often spread and transfer bacteria. If you use a sponge, wash it in the dishwasher after each use.

• Remember that a full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. Be sure to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. When carrying drinks, consider storing them in a separate cooler to avoid opening the food cooler frequently.

For more information, please visit Supermarket Guru Website.


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