Memorial Day is the unofficial start to outdoor cooking, but before you fire up that grill, there are some health and safety reminders you should be aware of.

Physician Assistant with ProHealth Physicians, Jennifer Clark-Connor came by the station to talk safety.

She says during this fun time it’s important to take precautions when it comes to safe food handling, preparation and cooking and avoiding dreaded food-borne illnesses like Salmonella and E. coli.

To prevent food poisoning at home, especially on Memorial Day, wash your hands, utensils, and food surfaces often, keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods, and cook foods to a safe temperature.

Also, double check expiration dates on foods, like chicken, hot dogs, or other meats, before cooking. If you happen to get sick, seek medical attention if you experience frequent vomiting and are unable to keep liquids down, have diarrhea for more than three days, or extreme pain or severe cramping

Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of dehydration, like excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, and severe weakness. You may require intravenous (IV) fluids administered by a medical professional if you’re dehydrated and are unable to keep fluids down when you drink.

She says to always begin your food preparation with clean hands, utensils, and surfaces. Then, take a look at your produce and protein. If there happen to be any bruised or damaged areas since the time you bought them, cut them away. Discard anything that appears to be rotten on produce.

While your sink is nearby, make sure your produce is rinsed thoroughly with water. Some items, like cucumbers or melons, should be scrubbed with a produce brush. Pat them dry after a thorough cleaning.

Raw ground beef, pork, lamb, or veal should be cooked to 160 degrees, while raw poultry should be cooked at 165 internally. Using that thermometer is the only way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy food borne bacteria.

If you don’t have a thermometer handy, it’s a good rule of thumb to cook meats until juices run clear. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. If you prefer a more well-done cook on your meat, you can choose to cook to higher temperatures.

When it comes to grill safety, especially around children, always supervise a barbecue grill when it’s in use, and never grill indoors. It’s best to use long-handled tools that are especially made for grilling to keep the chef safe. The grill should always be cleaned before use, especially after a long winter of infrequent use. Any excess dust or grease can cause a fire.


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