A little common sense and attention to detail can lead to a lot of summer enjoyment, free from worry that bad food will mar the experience of barbecues, camping, and picnics.
"During the summer months, it’s not unusual for the cook to be a person not normally involved in the preparation of food," says Ron McKay, administrator of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division. "It might be a spouse who decides to volunteer to barbecue. We’re concerned with food safety, especially during these months when some of the less routine activities are taking place."
"Ground beef, of course, should be cooked until it is done all the way through," says McKay. "USDA recommends using a thermometer, but that isn’t always practical on picnics or some barbecue situations. You should simply make sure that the meat is cooked until there is no pink in the middle.”
“You can’t always rely on the length of time meat is cooked because of the uneven heat emitted by the barbecue," says McKay. "It’s a good idea to cut into the meat, check down against the bone for any red or pink meat. Make sure the juices are clear."
Any time the cook is handling a raw meat product and then handling a ready-to-eat product, such as carrots and celery, it could be a recipe for illness.
"Cross-contamination is an issue of real concern with barbecues"" says McKay. "The platter used to transfer the raw meat and the utensils used on the raw meat should be exchanged with a fresh or clean set when the barbecuing is completed. Take an extra set of tongs or a new plate to put the cooked product on."
Cutting boards used in food preparation are also a potential source of problems. Using the same board to cut up a chicken and then to chop salad ingredients is not a good idea. A good cleaning and sanitizing of the cutting board after chopping up the raw meat products will minimize the risk.