4th of July

Preventing foodborne illness

Many people will be firing up their grills and cooking food to eat outdoors this July 4th. The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department encourages you to follow safe food handling steps to prevent foodborne illness and make sure food is safe and healthy for you and your guests.

When preparing for a barbecue or picnic, be aware of the following important safety issues: thawing, preparing, marinating, cooking and maintaining proper temperatures, safe serving, and handling leftovers.

Safe Thawing

Never thaw meat on the counter or defrost it in hot water. Storing foods at room temperature is not a safe practice, bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature. Frozen food is best thawed in one of three ways: in a refrigerator at 41°F, under cold running water, or in a microwave oven.

Safe Preparation

Be especially careful with raw meats. Bacteria present on raw meats can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces. If these surfaces are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw meats can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw meats, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Remember to use soap and warm water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If food is prepared at an outside venue where a sink is not available, bring a large container of bottled water with a spigot. Make sure you have liquid hand soap, paper towels, and some unscented, liquid chlorine bleach mixed with water (1 tablespoon per gallon of water) for sanitizing your cutting surfaces.

Don’t forget that grills need an annual cleaning after winter storage by scouring the grill with a wire brush. Spray the grill with oven cleaner and rinse thoroughly.

Safe Marinating

Again, temperature is the key here. Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked foods. Be sure to keep foods cold when transporting the marinated foods to your event.

Safe Cooking

Remember to keep meat cold until ready to grill. Always make sure to cook your food at a high enough temperature. If you are working with a gas grill, set the temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure your meat is completely thawed. If you are working with charcoal, cut the meat open before serving to make sure it is cooked or bring a food thermometer with you to test doneness. Ground beef patties should be cooked to 155°F and chicken to 165°F. Large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145°F for medium rare or to 160°F for medium. Pork should be cooked to at least 145°F. Be sure to clean the thermometer between uses. When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.

Serving Food Safely and Handling Leftovers

Perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Be especially aware of eggs. Eggs and perishable food should be kept in a cooler until ready for use. Keep the cooler closed, out of the sun and, if possible, covered for additional insulation. If possible, bring two coolers – one for drinks and another for highly perishable food. Pack your coolers with several inches of ice, blocks of ice, or frozen gel-packs. Use water-tight containers to store food and to prevent food from coming into contact with melted ice. For optimum results, promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap tightly for best quality.