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Foodborne illness potential rises with the temperature

Like the outdoor temperature, the potential for foodborne illnesses rises with the Memorial Day weekend and the official kickoff of backyard barbecue season.

Potentially hazardous foods are abundant at most cookouts, from ground beef burgers and grilled or fried chicken to cut melons, all of which can support bacterial growth if precautions are not taken. The risk of foodborne illness rises with warm weather and when food is taken away from the refrigerator or freezer.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control offers the following food safety tips that can keep consumers from ending up with the symptoms of a foodborne illness and a lousy ending to Memorial Day weekend;

Clean:
Hands, utensils (bring plenty of extra utensils and platters), clean thermometers.

Wash Your Hands: Wash your hands often with warm to hot soapy water after every chance of contamination; from touching raw foods, before and after preparing foods, using the bathroom, smoking or blowing your nose. Use single-service paper towels to dry your hands.

Separate, Don’t Cross-Contaminate: Separate raw and cooked/ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. Separate utensils, platters and cutting boards used for raw foods (chicken, beef, pork) and cooked/ready-to-eat foods. Also separate unlike raw foods such as chicken and beef from one another. Do not use the same cooler for raw and cooked items or ready-to-eat products in storage. Do not use ice for beverages from a cooler used to store raw meats or other foods.

Cook: It is safe to eat steaks rare provided the exterior is seared on a hot grill. Hamburger meat needs to be fully cooked all the way through until all traces of pink are gone and there are only clear juices, if any. Use a metal-stem food thermometer with a range of 0 degrees F to 220 degrees F (available at most retail stores). Cook ground beef, veal or pork to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees F. Cook beefsteak to at least 155 degrees F external temperature. Cook ground poultry (chicken or turkey) and whole poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Cook whole fish fillets to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Keep hot foods hot.

Whole eggs and egg products (includes liquid, frozen and dry eggs, along with any food containing eggs or egg products) need to be cooked to heat all parts of the food to 145 degrees F. If combined with meat or poultry, the higher temperatures for meat and poultry need to be used instead of 145 degrees F.

After cooking potentially hazardous foods to their proper temperatures, do not let the foods fall below a 130 degrees F holding temperature. It is always best to serve hot foods right off the grill, oven or rangetop after cooking.

Chill: The temperature of potentially hazardous foods such as meats (cooked or raw) should be kept at 45 degrees F or below when chilled or stored cold. Prepare coolers for keeping foods to be stored cool at 45 degrees F by using ice packs or similarly approved methods. Potentially hazardous foods, fully cooked, but which will be served cold, should be brought quickly to the desired temperature of 45 degrees F or below. If the food is bulky or in a deep pan, it is best to break the food down into smaller portions to reduce the amount of time it takes to chill it to the desired temperature.