As the Independence Day holiday nears, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans to keep food safety in mind at picnics and barbeques. IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says “When large gatherings like holiday-related picnics and meals happen, we typically hear about people getting ill with diarrhea and vomiting from foodborne illnesses.” Quinlisk said most of these illnesses are caused by foods that are improperly cooked or stored.
Food safety begins at the grocery store, according to Quinlisk. She says “When shopping, buy cold foods like meat, poultry and dairy products last, right before checkout. Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store so the food doesn’t sit in a hot car any longer than necessary.” In addition, she says it’s a good idea to take a cooler with ice or insulated grocery bags to transport perishables home – especially if your drive home is more than half an hour. And, once you’re home, place cold foods like meat, poultry and dairy products in the refrigerator right away.
To make sure you, your family, and friends have a healthy holiday, remember the following tips:
• Cook all meats thoroughly; especially ground meats like hamburgers and sausages (like bratwursts). Use a meat thermometer to ensure the middle of the meat has reached a temperature that will kill the organisms that can make us sick. Cook chicken to 165 F, ground meats like hamburger to 160 F, and whole meats like steaks or pork chops to 145 F.
• Marinate foods in the refrigerator – not on the kitchen counter or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, set aside a portion before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don’t reuse marinade as this can re-contaminate the food.
• Cook thoroughly and immediately after “partial cooking.” If you partially cook food in your kitchen to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.
• Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Whether in your car or on the picnic table, illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours and during the summer heat, that time is cut down to within one hour.
• Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.
• Have a way to wash your hands prior to eating. For example, if picnicking, bring soap and water or hand wipes so that everyone can clean their hands before they eat.
For more information on preventing foodborne illness, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/Foodborne.aspx.