With summer in full swing and Fourth of July cookouts and barbeques right around the corner, it’s important to keep food safety in mind.  Food safety is a key part of overall health and safety with one main goal: making sure you, and others, don’t get sick from the food you prepare.

The symptoms of food-borne illness, or food poisoning, can range anywhere from making you slightly uncomfortable at home to seriously ill at the doctor’s office.  Cases tend to rise in the summer when the days get hotter and germs multiply easily.

Try following these food safety tips this Fourth of July (and all summer long!) to keep your family and friends healthy as you get together outside to eat.

When preparing food:

Cross-contamination is when germs from one food spread to other food, through contact with unclean hands, utensils, or surfaces.

  • Wash your hands with soap before getting started and after touching raw meat, fish, and poultry.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods in the refrigerator and on work surfaces.
  • Keep kids away from these uncooked foods – while all of us can get food poisoning, little ones under 4 and older folks are at a higher risk.
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for foods that will be cooked (raw burgers and chicken wings) and foods that are already prepared or eaten raw (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese).
  • Throw out any marinades or sauces that touch raw meats.
  • Thaw frozen meat or poultry in the refrigerator – not on the counter, where bacteria and germs can grow.

When cooking food:

Food should be cooked to its minimum cooking temperature – hot enough to kill illness-causing germs. Check your food’s temperature using a food thermometer.

  • Fish should be cooked to 145°F and burgers should be cooked to 160°F. Poultry, hot dogs, and casseroles are safe when cooked to 165°F.
  • If you don’t have a meat thermometer, make sure burgers are cooked well-done and chicken is cooked until the juices run clear and the flesh is no longer pink. While this isn’t a guarantee for safety, it is still a good rule of thumb.
  • If smoking meat, the smoker should be kept between 225°F and 300°F to keep meat safe to eat.
  • To take cooked foods off the grill, use clean utensils that haven’t touched raw meat juices.

When serving food:

  • Everyone should wash hands before serving and eating. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you’re away from soap and a source of water.
  • Keep cooked food – both grilled meats and warm side dishes – at 140°F or warmer.
  • Keep cold foods below 40°F – either in coolers or on ice.
  • Use separate utensils for all foods to avoid cross-contamination. Do use utensils to serve – not hands!

When storing food:

  • Leftovers should be packed in coolers within two hours of cooking or removing from refrigeration.
  • For days when the temperature outside reaches above 90°F, food should be placed in a cooler or fridge within one hour.

By following these tips, you can help keep your friends and family safe from foodborne illness during your summer cookouts and BBQs. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet for more information, and have a safe and healthy Fourth!


By:  Alyssa Thomas

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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