In advance of the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Fire Safety and the New Jersey Department of Health are providing residents with grilling and food safety tips to keep holiday celebrations safe from injury and illness.
The Memorial Day holiday is the unofficial start to summer, which typically means taking to the barbecue grill for hotdogs and hamburgers and other grill-prepared foods.
“Beyond the normal precautions taken to keep a barbecue grill in good working order are those that involve transporting a propane tank,” said Louis Kilmer, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety and Acting State Fire Marshal. “The first of these is to make certain the tank is secured and visible.”
It is also important to take steps to protect against foodborne illness during the summer barbecue season. Approximately 3,000 New Jerseyans each year visit a healthcare provider because they became sick from food that was not prepared or cooked properly. Many, many more become ill but never seek medical attention.
“As everyone takes times to enjoy the holiday and summer season, it is important to remember safety precautions when handling foods whether you’re cooking out in the backyard or on a picnic,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. “Cook beef, chicken or pork thoroughly, refrigerate leftovers promptly and wash hands frequently, as well as any surfaces used to prepare food.”
When refilling an existing tank or exchanging one from your local retailer:
- Check to make sure your cylinder has a sealed plastic cap on the valve. Make certain the valve is closed tightly before transporting.
- Secure the cylinder in your vehicle. It should be placed on the rear seat of an automobile and secured in such a way that it will not roll around in the car’s interior.
- NEVER place it in the trunk. First, it could rupture if you are involved in a rear end collision. More importantly, should an accident occur, first responders might be jeopardized by being unaware of its presence in your vehicle.
- Limit the number of cylinders transported at one time in your vehicle to two.
Beyond annual grill maintenance, use everyday precautions that will help to prevent a fire:
- Know your grill. Read the manufacturer’s guidelines. Look at the owner’s manual or on the internet for product usage guidelines.
- Always check for leaks. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water and spray all the threaded connections. Bubbles will appear if you have a leak in any of them.
- DO NOT attempt to light the grill until you have checked all connections and verified they are leak free.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby that is permanently dedicated to the grill.
- If a grill flares up, first deny the fire oxygen by closing the cover, then shut off the gas. Use the extinguisher on any remaining flame.
- Turn off the supply valve after you turn off the burner valves when completed. It may be inconvenient but a closed supply valve prevents the unexpected.
- Always use the cylinder in an upright position. A gas grill is designed to burn gas. On its side, the propane collects as a liquid and it can leak as a liquid.
- Keep extra tanks away from the grill and store outside, away from any structure.
- Maintain and take care of your grill: clean it regularly during the season and protect it from the weather and rusting by using a high-quality grill cover.
- NEVER use a grill inside or even under an open porch, alcove, or garage. Carbon Monoxide is a byproduct of burning in confined spaces. It can kill you.
Kilmer notes charcoal grills require similar use cautions. However, problems usually occur when large amounts of charcoal grill fluid are used to get the charcoal going and the grill is too close to a structure on the property.
- Before you eat or make food, wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
- When preparing foods, use two cutting boards – one for raw meat, chicken and fish, and one for vegetables or other foods that will not be cooked.
- Check to ensure food is thoroughly cooked by inserting a food thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the meat, chicken or fish to check the internal temperature. Cook hamburgers to at least 155°F, chicken and stuffed meats to at least 165°F, and steaks, pork, fish and whole beef or pork roasts to at least 145°F.
- Keep cold foods chilled until serving time.
- Keep hot food hot by using tabletop equipment such as chafing dishes and sternos.
- Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Discard food that has been left out for four or more hours.
- Always wash fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating them.