4 Barbecue Safety Tips from the USDA

4 Barbecue Safety Tips from the USDA

by Katie Waldeck

Independence Day is just around the corner. And, if you’re like millions of  Americans, you’ll spend your day grilling up some tasty foods with friends and  family. It’s certainly a fun time, but it’s also important to recognize the  possible dangers that exist in outdoor barbecues. Indeed, food safety is even  more important in the summer, when hot temperatures foster an ideal environment  for bacteria to grow at a faster rate.

Luckily, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) has you covered,  with their helpful guide to preventing foodborne illnesses this 4th of July  holiday. Click through to check out their 4 basic tips for safer  grilling. For even more information on food safety, you can download the  USDA’s Ask Karen mobile phone app or check out the web version. You can also call the USDA hotline at  1-888-MPHotline.

1. Keep It Clean

Just because you’re cooking outdoors doesn’t mean you have to forgo the  cleaning you would do inside the house. If you don’t have access to clean water  during your barbecue, you can either bring some with you or use moist towelettes  and clean cloths to keep surfaces and utensils clean. Keep your hands clean  with hand sanitizer.

2. Keep Everything Separate

Have plenty of clean plates, utensils and platters on hand. Don’t ever reuse  platters or cutting boards that have been exposed to raw meat and poultry — if  there’s harmful bacteria present, it can contaminate even safely-cooked  food.

3. Make Sure Food is Cooked  Thoroughly

Meat and poultry can look perfectly done and safe to eat from the outside,  when, internally, that’s not the case.  Use a food thermometer to make  sure your food is cooked to a safe temperature. The USDA suggests the following internal temperatures:

  • Whole poultry: 165 °F
  • Poultry breasts: 165 °F
  • Ground poultry: 165 °F
  • Ground meats: 160 °F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to  rest at least 3 minutes.

You’ll also want to make sure that your hot food stays hot. Someone not ready  for that burger? Well, you can keep it hot by placing them on the side of the  grill and away from the coals.

4. Keep Food Chilled

Packing food into a cooler is the last thing you should do before leaving  your home for a barbecue. Have a thermometer in your cooler, and make sure  the temperature is always below 40°F. If you can, try to use one cooler for food  and one cooler for drinks. That way, you’ll be able to open up your drink cooler  as often as you like without exposing the food to warmer temperatures.

If it’s hot outside, make sure to keep your food in the cooler. Keep your  food out of the cooler for an hour at most. If you’re not sure how long a food  item has been sitting out in the sun, don’t take the risk. As the USDA says,  “when in doubt, throw it out!”

 

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E. Coli O145 Ban Opposed by Meat Industry

by Dr. Michael Greger

 

One child is dead and 13 others sickened across six states in an ongoing  outbreak of E. coli O145. Another child—a first-grader in  Massachusetts—also died recently, but that was due to a different strain of  E. coli, O157. After the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak in 1993, E.  coli O157 was declared an adulterant, meaning it became illegal to sell  meat testing positive for the deadly pathogen. It still, however, remained  perfectly legal to sell meat contaminated with the other “Big Six”  toxin-producing E. coli strains: O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145.  These strains are collectively sickening twice as many Americans as O157. For years, food safety and  consumer organizations have fought to ban the sale of meat soiled with these  other deadly strains against meat industry objections.

In the 1990s, the American Meat Institute opposed the original ban on the  sale of raw meat contaminated with E. coli O157 despite the devastating  effect this pathogen could have on vulnerable populations, especially children.  Here’s how one mother described what E. coli O157:H7 did to her  three-year-old daughter Brianna:

“The pain during the first 80 hours was horrific,  with intense abdominal cramping every 10 to 12 minutes. Her intestines swelled  to three times their normal size and she was placed on a ventilator. Emergency  surgery became essential and her colon was removed. After further surgery,  doctors decided to leave the incision open, from sternum to pubis, to allow  Brianna’s swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin.  Her heart was so swollen it was like a sponge and bled from every pore. Her  liver and pancreas shut down and she was gripped by thousands of convulsions,  which caused blood clots in her eyes. We were told she was brain dead.”

The ban passed in 1994 despite meat industry opposition, and now the number  of Americans dying from E. coli O157 is half of what it used to be.  Unfortunately this lesson was lost on the American Meat Institute, which  continued to fight tooth and nail against similar regulations targeting the  other Big Six strains. This week they lost. Meat known to test positive for any of these  potentially deadly fecal pathogens can no longer be legally sold as of June 4,  2012. Too late for Maelan Elizabeth Graffagnini, though—the 21-month old victim  of E. coli O145 whose funeral was held the same day.

The immediate source of the current outbreak has yet to be identified, but  the original source is always the same: feces. How contaminated is the American  meat supply with fecal matter?

What about the hundreds of thousands of Americans that die from  non-intestinal E. coli infections? Please feel free to check  out my 3-min. video Chicken Out of UTIs.

The meat industry argues that they should be allowed to sell unsafe meat  because it only poses a risk if it’s not properly cooked or handled. Ironically,  they’re also opposed to safe handling labeling. See my 3-min. video Food  Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination.

In health, Michael Greger, M.D.