WASHINGTON (WLNS) – “Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season,” says U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears.
Every year, millions of Americans commemorate Memorial Day to honor the sacrifices so many have made to protect our country. For those who choose to celebrate outdoors, the USDA recommends the following food safety tips to keep your outdoor activities safe this Memorial Day weekend.
“This summer may look different than most, and you can protect your family from foodborne illness and other illnesses during your summer celebrations by avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands regularly,” adds Brashears.
This weekend weather can be hot and humid, which means your food won’t stay safe as long as it could indoors. When the temperature outside is above 90°F, perishable food such as meat and poultry, dips and cold salads, or cut fruits and vegetables are only safe out on the table for one hour.
Keeping cold foods cold is an important step to keep food safe and healthy, so store them on ice, in coolers, or in your fridge and freezer.
Make sure your grilled meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature first by using a food thermometer.
Just like cold foods, hot perishable foods should be kept above 140°F until they’re eaten. You can easily do this by moving these items to the side of your grill away from the main heat source, rather than taking them off the grill entirely.
You may have everything you need in your kitchen to prepare food safely, but the same may not be true for grilling outdoors.
“Prepare your outdoor spaces so they are food safe. If you won’t have running water, use hand sanitizer or moist towelettes to keep your hands clean before, during, and after food preparation,” says USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Paul Kiecker.
The most effective way to stay safe before and after handling food is washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
If you have to use hand sanitizer, make sure to choose one that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Moist towelettes and paper towels can help keep cutting boards or utensils cleaner, but soap and hot water are the best way to get rid of germs or bacteria.
For any food safety questions during your summer celebrations, be sure to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.