By Optum New Mexico
July Fourth weekend is a time for family gatherings and flavorful barbecues and picnics. During this time, it’s important to take precautions when it comes to safe food handling, preparation and cooking to avoid food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli. Both can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million (or roughly one out of six Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calculates that about two percent to three percent of all food poisoning cases lead to secondary long-term illnesses and their complications such as arthritis, kidney failure and meningitis.
Typical food-poisoning symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever, all of which may range from mild to severe. Health care professionals caution that certain people have an increased risk for foodborne illness, including pregnant women, older adults, young children and people with weakened immune systems.
To help you keep your families healthy, here are some general food and kitchen hygiene tips to help you safely prepare and serve your July 4th fixings. These are especially critical for raw meats, summer salads, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables, which are among the most perishable foods at cookouts.
- Clean everything: It is important for those preparing and handling food to frequently wash their hands before and after they start cooking, and to use fresh, clean plates and utensils for serving cooked food.
- Cook to the right temperature: When grilling, meats tend to brown faster on the outside. However, this doesn’t mean the meat is cooked on the inside. Use a food thermometer to make sure red meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. When food is left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, bacteria grow rapidly. For temperatures over 90 degrees F, food should be refrigerated within an hour.
Have fun this Fourth, and be safe with your food!