With a little over a month left until the end of summer, many of you may try to squeeze a barbecue in while the days are still long. We all know with these type of events, careful planning and a trip to Costco’s for your food and supply needs is usually required. It is important however, to also keep food safety in mind, rather than leave it as an afterthought. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 48 million Americans experience food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness) every year- that’s 1 in 6 Americans! As a Queens food poisoning lawyer for over 60 years, here at Wittenstein & Wittenstein, we’ve seen our fair share of cases. The last thing you want to do is add to that statistic.
Here are a few helpful tips from our Queens food poisoning lawyer that you can follow to keep your barbecue from turning sour.
Before your event:
- Add meat/poultry/seafood to your cart last: Do you have a long list of groceries to pick up? Do the lines appear longer than normal? It may be worth it to wait until you pick up everything on your list before adding anything that needs to be refrigerated to your cart. Furthermore, if you plan to run a series of errands before returning home, save the trip to the grocery store for last. With 90 degree weather still in the forecast, leaving your meat in your hot trunk for an extra hour or two is definitely not a good idea as it can start developing bacteria.
- Bag your meats/poultry/seafood separately: Keep your meat away from any raw vegetables/fruit you may have. You do not want the juices from the meat to contaminate any food items.
- Marinate food in the fridge– If you want to marinate your meat for a couple of hours, make sure to do so in the refrigerator. Doing so on the counter, leaves your meat susceptible to bacteria.
- Make sure food is thoroughly cooked– Different meats have different minimum heating requirements. Be sure to know what those are in advance. Having a thermometer present while you’re cooking will help with accuracy. When it comes to cooking burgers, or kebabs on the grill look make sure that the meat is no longer pink and all of the juices have run clear.
During the event:
- Keep hands clean! : Make sure that you, along with anyone else who will be handling the food maintain clean hands. Wash your hands at least 20 seconds prior to touching the food. Washing your hands, and then fiddling around with chairs, tables or the grill does not still leave you with clean hands!
- Do not cross-contaminate utensils/marinade: Make sure to wash any utensil you were using to handle raw meat, with soap and water before using it for another dish. Do not reuse marinade that’s already touched raw meat on cooked food without at least bringing it to a boil first.
- Keep cold food cold: There’s nothing worse than seeing latecomers eat mayonnaise filled potato salad or coleslaw that has been bubbling underneath the hot sun. Food that is meant to be cold should stay cold! More specifically it should be placed in an environment of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. After your guests have initially been served, stick cold dishes like potato salad, or macaroni salad back in the fridge, or place them in a cooler with ice. Try to make sure that the cooler stays shut most of the time to maintain the temperature.
- Keep hot food hot: I’ve heard someone say before, that there’s no need to keep food hot since it’s already hot outside. Keeping food hot is about more than the taste- it is the safe method of handling food! Most meats have to be cooked to a temperature of at least 145 degrees to properly kill all bacteria. Cooking it to that temperature and leaving it in 90 degree weather outside, will not cut it. Either keep the food warm in an oven or with sternos, or place it in the refrigerator after two hours. If it’s over 90° F outside, put the food away after one hour.
After the event:
- Throw away food that’s been out: Five hours later, your event is over…and remnants of the lasagna you made 2 hours before the event is still sitting on the table. Do yourself a favor and throw it out! By that point, bacteria has already claimed it. If you still try to eat it, it will surely give you a belly ache!