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Healthy Summer Series: Think Before You Grill! Tips To Keep Everyone Safe

By Florida Department of Health, Office of Communications

June 27, 2014

Think Before You Grill! Smart Tips To Keep Everyone Safe

Picture this: It’s a crisp summer day. Friends and family are sitting in the backyard, ready to eat a tender, juicy steak that’s grilling on the barbecue. One person has been entrusted with the sacred task of cooking the steaks to everyone’s satisfaction. This is a typical pastime during the summer season, especially in sunny Florida. But grilling duties are about a lot more than just standing by the grill making sure the food doesn’t burn.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) reminds everyone that there are several tips for grilling safety you should follow this summer in order to prevent not just serious injuries, but foodborne illnesses as well.

Home fires account for at least half of all fires in the United States. To avoid starting a fire in your own backyard, you should always remember the following tips:

  • Use propane and charcoal grills outdoors only, in open, safe environments.
  • Keep grills far from both children and pets.
  • Thoroughly inspect the grill before using it every year, making sure to check for signs that indicate a gas leak with propane grills.

In Florida alone, the number of emergency room visits due to carbon monoxide poisoning has doubled since 2006. That’s why it is important to never leave the grill unattended, even for a minute. If there is a gas leak, completely turn off the grill, disconnect everything, and step away from the area.

Food poisoning is an important consideration when you’re cooking outside where there are constant bacteria that can easily get into your food. Most foodborne bacteria grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 °F. These microorganisms grow more rapidly in the warm summer months, because the air is moist enough for them to thrive.

Before any food even touches your grill, you should take the following precautions:

  • When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 °F or below.
  • Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.
  • In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should never sit out for more than an hour.
  • Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out the meat and poultry that will immediately be placed on the grill.
  • NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

After following these tips, make sure to cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature (145°F) to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill may brown very quickly on the outside, but the inside could still be undercooked. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.

Keeping your hands and the area around you clean is another way to prevent bacteria from getting in your food. We all know we must wash our hands before and after handling raw food, but you should also thoroughly wash the utensils you used to cook it. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a common cause of foodborne illness.

Remember, when in doubt, throw it out! Follow these simple safety tips to make sure you don’t miss out on the best part of a Florida summer.

For more information on foodborne illness in the summer, click here: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/foodborne-illness-peaks-in-summer/.

For a more detailed list of barbecue safety rules, click here: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/barbecue-and-food-safety/CT_Index.

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