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Guest opinion: Keep in mind food safety for barbecues and picnics

Deseret News - 5/15/2019

Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember and honor the men and women who have served our country. It’s also the traditional start of the summer vacation and travel season — a time for family getaways and flavorful barbecues and picnics.

During this time it’s important to take precautions when it comes to safe food handling, preparation and cooking, in order to avoid food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli, which can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million (or roughly one out of six Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calculates that about 2 to 3 percent of all food poisoning cases lead to secondary long-term illnesses such as arthritis, kidney failure and meningitis.

Typical food-poisoning symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever, all of which may range from mild to severe. Health care professionals caution that certain people have an increased risk for foodborne illness including pregnant women and infants, older adults and people with weakened immune systems and chronic illness.

To help you keep your families healthy, here are some general food and kitchen hygiene tips to help you safely prepare and serve your Memorial Day meal. These are especially critical for raw meats, summer salads, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, which are among the most perishable foods at cookouts.

  • Clean everything: It is important for those preparing and handling food to frequently wash their hands before and after they start cooking, and to use fresh, clean plates and utensils for serving cooked food.
  • Cook to the right temperature: When grilling meats, they tend to brown faster on the outside. However, this doesn’t mean the meat is cooked on the inside. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Throw perishable food out after two hours. When food is left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, bacteria grow rapidly.
If you or a loved one experience high fever (over 102 degrees), frequent vomiting or dehydration or blood in the stool, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Have fun this Memorial Day, but be safe with your food.

CREDIT: Chad E. Bittner