Safe Barbecuing Tips from the OCHD: “Chill It, Cook It, Check It, Keep It Safe”

bbq“Warm weather and holiday weekends go together. It is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness,” stated Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.

Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator, pointed out the importance of taking extra precautions and practicing safe food handling when preparing perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products. “When shopping for your barbeque, buy cold foods last, right before checking out. Keep poultry away from other food; grab one of the plastic bags that are handy by the meat and poultry section and put the meat or chicken in the bag. Avoid raw meat or poultry juices dripping on other food. It is important to refrigerate perishable foods within two hours or if the temperature is above 90 degrees F., within one hour. Freeze poultry and ground meat that will not be used in one or two days,” he added.

Leslie Terjesen, OCHD Public Information Officer, said, “Make sure your meat, poultry, or seafood stays refrigerated until ready to use. When packed in a cooler, keep out of direct sunlight and avoid opening the lid too often. Pack beverages in a separate cooler.”

Terjesen continued, “We remind people of the importance of handwashing but it is equally important to keep all cooking utensils and surfaces you are using just as clean. Bacteria on raw meat and poultry can be easily spread to other foods by juices dripping from packages, hands, and utensils, called cross-contamination. To prevent foodborne illness, do not use the same platter and utensils for raw or cooked meat and poultry. If you are picnicking away from your home, find out if there is a source of clean water and if not; bring water for preparation and cleaning. You may choose to pack clean cloths and wet towlettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

The following steps are offered for safe cooking for you and your family.

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Use two cutting boards to keep raw meat, chicken, and fish apart from vegetables.
• Use a food thermometer to check meat, fish, and chicken after it is cooked.
*Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees F., while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145 degrees F. for medium rare or to 160 degrees F. for medium.
*Poultry must reach a temperature of 165 degrees F.
*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 held raw food, unless washed with hot water and soap first.
• Chill food and leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as you finish eating.
• Always wash fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating.
• Keep eggs in the refrigerator; cook eggs until the yolk is firm.
• Defrost frozen food in the microwave or refrigerator, not the counter.
• Mayonnaise-based foods need to be kept cold. Mayonnaise alone is too acidic for bacteria to grow in it; however, when mixed with other foods, bacteria can grow if kept too warm.
• Bacteria, such as Salmonella and Shigella, are often present on the rind of melons so it is important to wash the melon thoroughly before cutting. Once cut, refrigerate the cut pieces of melon.
• Serve hot foods steaming hot and cold foods cold.
• Do not buy expired food. Throw food out if it smells bad or if you are not sure it is safe to eat.

Although cooking outdoors was once only a summer activity shared with family and friends, more than half of Americans say they are cooking outdoors year round. So whether the snow is blowing or the sun is shining brightly, it is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness.
Visit the Ocean County Health Department website at www.ochd.org to find food safety tips, including buying, cooking, transporting and storing food, applicable all year long. [TLS]

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