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Food Safety Tips For This Grilling Season

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Millions of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July every year by having a backyard barbeque. While this year’s holiday weekend may not look like past years, its still just as important to keep food safety practices in mind to prevent foodborne illnesses. 

When preparing food this holiday weekend, USDA’s Chrystal Okonta recommends people follow four simple steps to food safety;  clean your hands and surfaces, keep raw foods separate, cook to proper temperatures, and keep perishable foods chill.

“The big concern is that people can get sick, they can get food borne illness," Okonta said. "And it's a pretty common problem in the United States, about 48 million Americans will get a foodborne illness each year, according to the CDC. So, following the steps to help prevent that, especially the chill step which is really important if you're going to be outside for a long period of time. You really need to plan ahead because when food gets hot, it means the bacteria that can cause foodborne illness can grow.”

The number of people that catch these foodborne illnesses tends to spike during the summer due to people relying on the color of the grill marks in the food, rather than the thermometer.

Even when food is already cooked, you should still be mindful of good practices to keep these foods safe.

“Our rule of thumb is to keep hot food hot and keep cold food cold," Okonta said. "So if you're going to be using a grill, a great way to keep those foods warm after you've cooked them, is to just put them on the grill away from the direct heat because then they'll stay warm enough to remain safe. If you're going to have cold foods like potatoes, sauce, and coleslaw; keep them in a cooler nested in ice, in bowls, or in the fridge or freezer and just pick out what you're going to use at any given time because that'll keep those foods cold.”

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of foodborne illness.