About E. coli Blog
Germs lurk when cooking outdoors
Before you fire up the grill this summer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns about dangerous food-borne diseases that can be transmitted by the consumption of improperly prepared foods.
An estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease occur each year in the United States. The CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to these diseases each year.
In general, refrigeration or freezing prevents virtually all bacteria from growing. Microbes are killed by heat. If food is heated to an internal temperature above 160 degrees for even a few seconds, this is enough to kill almost parasites, viruses or bacteria.
In the kitchen or on the picnic table, microbes can be transferred from one food to another food by using the same knife, cutting board or other utensils to prepare both without washing the surface or utensil in between. A food that is fully cooked can become re-contaminated if it touches other raw foods or drippings from raw foods that contain pathogens.
Even lightly contaminated food, such as potato salad made with mayonnaise, left out on a warm summer day can become highly infectious in a matter of hours. If the food were refrigerated promptly, the bacteria would not multiply at all.
Here are some tips from the Partnership for Food Safety Education:
• Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.
• When marinating, keep foods refrigerated. Don’t use sauces that were used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinades before applying to cooked food.
• When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
• Use a meat thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, while roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 for medium rare or to 160 for medium. Cook ground poultry to 165 degrees and chicken breasts to 170. Fish should be opaque and flake easily.
• When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.
• A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature.