Unwashed hands, undercooked meats, cross-contamination from raw meats to other foods, and eating unwashed fruits and vegetables can spread E. coli, Salmonella, and other germs at picnics and BBQ’s.What many people call “stomach flu” or “intestinal virus” is often food poisoning. Illness can range from mild nausea to a serious condition requiring medical treatment and hospitalization. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.
When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.
Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting, keep below 40°F in an insulated cooler.
- Wash utensils, plates, and food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water, then rinse. Don’t reuse plates or utensils that came into contact with raw meats until they are cleaned.
- If away from home, pack up dirty dishes to clean at home. Bring a separate box or plastic bag to hold dishes that held raw meats.
- If camping or away from home for a longer period of time, bring some water and cleaning supplies with you to wash dishes for reuse.
- Clean the grill and place trash in covered garbage and recycle bins to prevent attracting pests such as yellowjackets, rodents, or other wildlife.
Check your grill and tools
Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking. Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.
Throw out marinades and sauces that have touched raw meat juices, which can spread germs to cooked foods. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.
- Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. Don’t use the uncooked sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. If you do want to use the leftover sauce, heat it until it comes to boil.
- Clean the grill and preheat coals until they are lightly coated with ash.
- Thaw frozen meat before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can use the microwave, oven, or stove to thaw or partially cook the meat if it then goes immediately on the grill.
- Cook the meat to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding bone, fat, or cartilage.
- 145°F – whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (stand-time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
- 145°F – fish
- 160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
- 165°F – all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
- 250°F – 300°F – inside smoke
- 140°F or warmer – until it’s served
Divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).
Fruits, Vegetables & Salads
- Wash fruits and vegetables with running water before cooking or serving. Rub or scrub firm-skin fruits and vegetables, such as melons, under running water. Bacteria and other germs can be transferred to the inside of the fruit or vegetable by cutting through it.
- Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready to eat” or “washed” don’t need to be washed.
- Pasta and potato salads should be kept cold until serving. Contrary to common thought, mayonnaise is not the potential problem with these salads. These salad’s other ingredients, such as potatoes, eggs, pasta, and tuna, are better at producing harmful bacteria, so they need to be chilled before combining to make the salad.
- Cut fruits, vegetables, and prepared salads should be kept cold. When served outdoors, consider placing the serving dish on ice or store in a cooler after serving.
Leftovers – Don’t Let Food Sit Out
- Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90 degrees or higher), don’t let food sit out for more than one hour. Bacteria can multiply quickly on food left out in warm weather.
- Store leftovers in a refrigerator or in a cooler with plenty of ice or frozen packs. Leftover meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products should be the first foods you want to keep cold. Salads and cut or cooked fruits and vegetables should be kept cold.
- Throw away perishable food that has been sitting out too long. If the ice or gel packs in the cooler have melted, and you can’t keep the food cold, throw the food out.
- Some foods such as breads, rolls, chips, crackers, and cookies are okay to leave out but should be covered for freshness. Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard are acidic, so they are okay to leave out for a picnic or barbecue.