The Allegheny County Health Department is offering food safety tips for July 4th holiday cookouts and picnics.
The key to preventing food poisoning is good personal hygiene, along with temperature control and adequate cooking of potentially hazardous foods, according to health officials.
Washing hands is not only important before preparing foods but also between handling raw and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination or the transfer of bacteria. Washing with soap and warm water is best, but if they won’t be available on outings take antibacterial towelettes or lotion.
Meat, poultry and seafood should be cooked thoroughly and the best way to know if these foods have been cooked enough is to check their temperature with a meat thermometer.
Safe cooking temperatures are 145 degrees for all whole cuts of meat, with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming; 145 degrees for seafood; 160 degrees for all ground meats, including hamburgers; and 165 degrees for poultry. Hot dogs and other processed or precooked meats such as kielbasa should be reheated to 160 degrees.
Those who don’t have a meat thermometer should follow these guidelines but remember they’re not as reliable as temperature as an indicator of doneness: beef and pork should be grilled until all the pink is gone, poultry until there is no red in the joints and fresh fish until it flakes with a fork.
Use different plates to carry raw meats and cooked meats to and from the grill so bacteria-laden juices left on the plate from raw meat don’t come in contact with and contaminate cooked meat.
Food safety tips for picnics also are available by visiting www.achd.net.