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July 19, 2010

Health Department Offers Food Safety Tips for Summer Cooking

To avoid the risk of food-borne illnesses, the Oswego County Health Department is encouraging consumers to pay special attention to handling and preparing foods during the summer barbecue season.

"Food-borne illnesses increase during the summer months," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Oswego County Public Health Director. "Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food to large numbers. When this happens, someone eating the food can get sick."

"Furthermore," said Dr. Norfleet, "more people are cooking outside at picnics, barbecues, and on camping trips. The safety controls that a kitchen provides - thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities - are usually not available."

To ensure that your family's meals are not only delicious but also safe, the Oswego County Health Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer these tips to reduce the risk of the most common foodborne illnesses.

Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Bring water for drinking and food preparation.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used for cleaning hands, if not visibly soiled.

Don't Cross-Contaminate

  • Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a prime cause of food-borne illness.
  • When packing the cooler chest for an outing, wrap raw meats and poultry securely; avoid raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food.
  • Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.

Cook Thoroughly

Food safety experts agree that food is safely cooked when it is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause food-borne illness.
  • Take your thermometer along. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Check them with a food thermometer.
  • Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145º F.
  • Cook all cuts of pork; steaks and roasts that have been tenderized, boned, rolled; ground beef, veal, and lamb etc., to an internal temperature of 160º F.
  • All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165º F throughout the product.
  • Cook meat and poultry completely at the picnic site. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.

Refrigerate Promptly

Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of food-borne illness. Keep cold food cold! Foods should not be allowed to reach the "Danger Zone" between 40 and 140 degrees-this is where bacteria can grow and multiply if not properly chilled or heated.

  • Cold refrigerated perishable food like luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water.
  • Consider packing canned beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler because the beverage cooler will probably be opened frequently.
  • Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible.
  • Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as soon as it starts melting.
  • If a cooler chest is not an option, consider taking fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, dried cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers, and a bottle of refreshing beverage.
  • Take-out food: If you don't plan to eat take-out food within two hours of purchase, plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing for your outing.

Leftovers

Food left out of refrigeration for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. Above 90º F, food should not be left out over one hour. Play it safe; put leftover perishables back on ice once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat. If you have any doubts, throw it out.

Additional resources for consumers are available at the following Web sites:


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