Happy 4th of July! Many of us have plans this week to watch fireworks, go to the beach, or hang out by the pool. If any of your plans involves a picnic, barbeque, or pool party, you want to make sure you are safe from getting a foodborne illness. In fact, rates of foodborne illness spikes in the summer due to the warm outdoor temperatures letting bacteria reach their “danger zone” temperatures at a faster time (CDC, 2018). In addition to that, some people simply don’t know some food safety basics or don’t think too much about it. For me personally, I was at a Fourth of July party one year and the friend hosting was grilling burgers for everyone and didn’t think to bring out a clean plate for the cooked food; she would’ve put the cooked burgers on the same plate that had touched the raw meat (an example of cross-contamination) had someone not noticed it and said something. This may seem obvious to most, but some people may not even realize it.
Do you know what temperatures meat should be cooked to? Or how long it can safely sit out unrefrigerated? Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, seafood, and veal need to reach a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (15 seconds of this temperature for the seafood and 4 minutes for the others), while ground meat and ground seafood need to reach 155 degrees for 15 seconds, as bacteria is no longer just on the surface and so a higher temperature is needed. Lastly, poultry, whether whole or ground, must reach 165 degrees for 15 seconds. When cooking, it is not recommended to go by the color of the meat; a food thermometer is the surest way to tell that your food has reached the minimum internal cooking temperature.
At the absolute maximum, food can be kept without temperature control (ie: sitting on a picnic table) for up to two hours. After that, the food must be discarded.
Enjoy your holiday—and the food that goes along with it!
CDC. (2018). Get Ready to Grill Safely. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/bbq-iq.html
ServSafe (2012). Cooking Requirements for Specific Types of Food. Retrieved from http://elearning.servsafe.com/content/ssmct6/assets/en/pdf/cooking_requirements.pdf