Cookouts and Food Safety

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By News Team on May 22, 2020

Do you know the food temperature danger zone? Foods spoil more rapidly when they're kept between 40 and 140 degrees. That describes every dish at a potluck and probably every item on your Memorial Day picnic table. 

To keep foods safe to eat this weekend and throughout the summer months, keep hot foods in warming trays and store cold foods in ice baths, coolers or in the fridge until ready to be served.

Here are a few more tips from Martha Ross, registered dietitian with Carilion Clinic, to ensure safe grilling and eating outdoors this summer.

Watch the clock. Don't leave food out for more than two hours, or one hour when it's above 90 degrees out. 

Cook all meats to the safe minimum cooking temperature. Follow the minimum cooking temperatures below, and use a meat thermometer to be sure:

  • Ground meats: 160 degrees
  • Poultry: 165 degrees
  • Lamb, pork, veal and beef cuts: 145 degrees
  • Fish: 145 degrees

Keep your steaks from charring. According to the National Cancer Institute, carcinogens form when meat is cooked at temperatures above 300° and fat and juices from the meat drip onto the fire, causing flames. Find out more about safe grilling here.

Keep hands, utensils and surfaces clean. This is especially important now! Use warm, soapy water and wash for at least 20 seconds. Avoid cross-contamination by washing surfaces, utensils and hands between handling and preparing of different foods.

Know the symptoms of food poisoning. Food poisoning occurs between 12 to 72 hours after consumption. Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps

If symptoms last longer than 72 hours, be sure to seek medical attention.

And remember to grill safely. If your cookout includes kids, check out SafeKids Worldwide for tips on grilling safely when children are nearby. They recommend grilling safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association. Check out their video below: