Before you fire up the grill, the CDC in Atlanta wants to warn consumers about dangerous food-borne diseases that can be transmitted by the consumption of improperly prepared foods. Outdoor cooking in warm summertime temperatures raises the risk of coming in contact with contaminated foods.
Food-borne disease is caused by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages. More than 250 different food-borne diseases have been described. The most commonly recognized are those caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, salmonella and E. coli, and by a group of viruses called calicivirus, also known as the Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses.
An estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease occur each year in the United States. The great majorities of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and the CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to these diseases each year.
Here are some tips for summer barbecues and picnics from the Partnership for Food Safety Education:
Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.
When marinating for long periods of time, keep foods refrigerated. Don’t use sauces that were used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinades before applying to cooked food.
When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 for medium rare or to 160 for medium. Cook ground poultry to 165 degrees and chicken breasts to 170. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.
Give bacteria the cold shoulder. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature. Also, be sure to keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. Use a thermometer to monitor it.