Every year, millions of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July by sizzling hot dogs, hamburgers and other American classics on the grill.
This holiday weekend might not be like past years, so while keeping public health recommendations in mind, forget food safety practices to prevent foodborne illnesses (commonly known as food poisoning).
Incidents of foodborne illness surge during the summer because harmful bacteria multiply more quickly in a hot and humid climate, and more people are eating outside,away from the conveniences of the kitchen that help them stay safe.
Recent USDA research found only one-third of Americans keep hot foods (like burgers, brats and hot dogs) warm after cooking and even less – only 16% – keep perishable food like potato salad and guacamole nested in ice when serving foods that should be eaten cold.
Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold is especially important during the hot summer months (in temperatures above 90˚F) when leftovers are only safe outdoors for one hour instead of two.
Researchers also identified thousands of times when participants preparing meals in test kitchens should have washed their hands to prevent the transfer of harmful foodborne germs but did not. Seventy-four percent of the time when it was recommended, participants did not even attempt to wash their hands during meal preparation. That’s a surefire way to cross-contaminate other food and risk foodborne illness.
For more information or to get questions answered directly, you can visit www.FoodSafety.gov to learn about food safety practices and access “Ask USDA,” an online database with thousands of answers to specific questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses. Also, consumers can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.