Fourth of July is definitely a time for celebration. In Erie County, we celebrate with a BBQ in the backyard, a picnic at the park or snacks on the boat.
It is important to be vigilant about preparing and storing food safely because every year people become ill from eating food contaminated with harmful bacteria served at these types of events. It is safe to grill and plan picnics, just follow the necessary steps to keep food safe:
Packing and transporting food
•Do not prepare foods more than one day before unless it is to be frozen. Cooking foods in advance allows for opportunities for bacteria to grow.
•Keep meat and poultry refrigerated or in the cooler until ready to use. Meat, poultry and seafood may be packed in a cooler frozen so they stay colder longer. Make sure they are well wrapped to keep their juices from contaminating other food in the cooler.
•Keep the cooler lid shut. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. Opening and shutting a cooler will expose it to warm air temperatures. The temperature of the food cooler will more likely be maintained if it is not opened and shut as guests replenish their drinks. Cold food should be kept at 40°F or below.
•Make sure there is ice in the cooler. Ice may keep food safe, but when the ice melts, the resulting cold water is not cold enough. Keep the cooler in shade and out of direct sunlight.
•Wash hands before handling food and use clean utensils and containers. Hands, utensils, containers and work surfaces can contaminate food with harmful bacteria. If you are outside and don’t have access to running water, use a moist towel-ette or “wet wipe” to clean hands or work surfaces.
•Cook food to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside while reaching temperatures to kill bacteria on the inside.
•Use a meat thermometer to check meat before serving: beef, lamb and veal should be cooked to 145°F (and allow to rest for 3 minutes); beef hamburgers to160°F; pork to 160°F; and poultry to 165°F.
•Never partially grill meat or poultry on the grill.
•Keep cooked meats and poultry warm on the side of the grill or in a dish in the oven until serving.
•Use a clean platter and utensils when taking food off of the grill.
•Always wash hands before serving and eating food.
•Keep hot foods hot (135°F) and cold foods cold (41°F). If it is left out for more than 2 hours, throw it out - do not save the leftovers. In hot weather (over 90°), do not let the food set out for more than 1 hour.
•Mayonnaise-based foods and cut melons need to be kept cold. Place serving dishes directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replenish ice as needed.
When planning your party, put lots of fruits and vegetables on the menu. Provide water and other low-calorie alternatives, such as brewed ice tea, to reduce caloric intake of sugary drinks.