It’s summer time, meaning a lot of people are eating outside while enjoying the sunshine. But if you don’t properly take care of the grill or the food you’re cooking on it, you could wind up making people sick.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Hagen, the under secretary for food safety at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, people may overlook safety precautions during cookouts, because they’re busy entertaining and do not have the same “food handling savvy” they might have in the kitchen.
However, Hagen noted it’s important to be vigilant no matter where you cook as thousands of people are admitted to hospitals every year for food borne illnesses.
“Forty-eight million people in the United States get sick every year from food poisoning. Forty-eight million,” Hagen said. “And 128,000 of them end up in the hospital, 30,000 of them will die from food borne illness each year in the United States. That's why this is worth talking about, raising awareness, and giving people the information they need to reduce the risk."
Hagen listed three steps to keeping food safe:
- Clean your hands, utensils and food surfaces before and after you cook
- Separate raw meat and poultry from foods that won’t be cooked
- Use a meat thermometer to cook to the proper temperature
"When you're eating outside the rule is two hours,” Hagen said. “You really can't leave things sitting out for more than two hours, and if the temperature is above ninety degrees, which it often is at fourth of July,…you can't leave things out for more than one hour. So get them back into the cooler, back into the refrigerator as soon as possible."
If you get a food borne illness, Hagen said you may start feeling symptoms anywhere from a couple hours to as long as six weeks after you’ve eaten the tainted food.