This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages.
This weekend, America will honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country by observing Memorial Day. This occasion gives us a great opportunity to reflect on the costs of freedom and to be grateful we live in a great nation. In addition to this auspicious remembrance, many who consider this weekend to mark the unofficial start of summer are going to celebrate with a barbecue or picnic celebration. Preparing and storing food for outdoor summer cookouts requires special precautions to ensure food is safe to eat.
Start off your meal right by always washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. It’s important to wash both before and after handling food to help avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when germs from one type of food, like raw chicken, get on another type of food, like veggies for salad. When taking foods off the grill, don’t put cooked food items back on the same plates that have been used for raw food, unless they have been washed with hot water and soap first.
Another way to keep from cross-contaminating your food is to avoid re-using sauce that has been used to marinate raw meat or poultry. If you want to re-use marinades as sauce for cooked food, be sure to boil it first or set aside a portion of unused marinade to use later as a sauce. Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
Use a food thermometer to ensure food on the grill reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks should be cooked to at least 145 degrees. Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
In hot weather (above 90 degrees) foods should never sit out for more than one hour before going in the refrigerator or cooler. A full cooler is going to maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that’s partially filled, so it’s important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun. Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler will stay cold. Also, this will keep drinks from coming in contact with raw foods.
To have a safe and healthy gathering, follow these food preparation tips. For more information about Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, or visit us on Facebook at Carson City Health and Human Services.