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NEWS | May 13, 2015

Keeping the Summer Cookout Safe

By Airman 1st Class Tanya McKenzie 628th Medical Group

Summertime is right around the corner, so it's time to make way for an outdoor activity just about everyone loves - - the good old fashioned American cookout. Although cookouts may seem like a simple task, there are quite a few factors that play a part in making sure that the food is just right and ready for consumption. Most of the meats typically used for cookouts, such as beef, chicken and pork, are potentially hazardous and, if not handled correctly, can cause severe illness. Potentially hazardous foods are any foods that require time/temperature control for safety. Other possibly dangerous foods include eggs, fish, cut fruits and deli meats.

There are specific foodborne bacteria associated with summer cookouts. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "Salmonella is estimated to cause one million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths." Another form of bacteria associated with cookout type foods is Listeria. The CDC found that "approximately 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to Listeriosis occur annually in the U.S" These types of bacteria can be prevented by knowing some of the best practices for food preparation.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a cookout:

Handling Techniques:
· Hot foods should be kept at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above
· Cold foods should be kept at 41degrees Fahrenheit or below
· Handle ready to eat foods like hamburgers and hotdogs only with suitable utensils, such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs or single use gloves (not latex gloves)

Cooking Temperatures:
· Fish- 145 degrees Fahrenheit
· Pork and ground meats- 155 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds
· Poultry- 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds
· Use a food thermometer to best judge temperature

Avoid Cross Contamination:
· Prevent raw meats from dripping onto ready to eat foods
· Keep different types of raw meat separate from each other
· Store unwashed food or raw food away from ready to eat foods

Washing Hands & Sanitizing Dishes:
· Wash hands for at least 20 seconds, which is equivalent to singing the "Happy Birthday" song
· Utensils and food contact surfaces of equipment should be sanitized before and after use with a chlorine solution of 50 ppm. This is easily made by using one cap full of household bleach for every gallon of water.

Storing and Transporting Foods:
· Protect foods from contamination by cover or wrapping  them
· Store food in a dry clean area and away from toxins/cleaning agents
· Use leftovers ideally within 24 hours and discard within seven calendar days
· Reheat potentially hazardous foods to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit

Questions or concerns about food safety? Contact Joint Base Charleston Public Health at 963-6944.