Nothing says summer like burgers sizzling on the grill, but just because summer is supposed to be carefree doesn’t mean you should be carefree about your food. Those family barbecues and picnics in the park could be putting you in danger of food poisoning if you don’t know how to keep safe.
San Antonio.- Nothing says summer like burgers sizzling on the grill, but just because summer is supposed to be carefree doesn’t mean you should be carefree about your food. Those family barbecues and picnics in the park could be putting you in danger of food poisoning if you don’t know how to keep safe.
Earlier this week, Blue Cross Blue Shield issued a warning about sharp increases in food poisoning cases during the summer months. Food poisoning occurs when people eat or drink contaminated food. The most common bacteria in food poisoning cases are Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter, while the most common virus is the Norwalk virus
“We've made a commitment to encourage wellness throughout this community,” said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas. “So we aren't just sharing this message with our members.”
Not only has Blue Cross Blue Shield seen spikes in summer food poisoning cases, apparently the numbers go up every year. One out of six Americans (about 48 million people) suffers from food poisoning sickness, 128,000 victims need to be hospitalized and 3,000 perish from these illnesses.
Don’t be that statistic. Think twice before enjoying an extra rare burger right off the grill – it’s the internal temperature that counts – not how delicious it looks or how well it sizzles.
Diane Van, manager of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, explains that rare hamburger meat carries special risks.
“A rare hamburger -- you are taking a chance,” Van said. “We know especially for hamburgers that one out of every four hamburgers may look cooked … But that hamburger hasn’t reached a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees.”
Tips to help prevent food poisoning:
- While fresh juices are usually healthier, they do need to be refrigerated so it’s best to go with pasteurized or concentrated juices if they will be sitting outside for an extended period of time. (Note that no food should be left sitting outside for more than two hours.)
- Avoid dairy-based foods that spoil easily like mayonnaise, sour cream dip, potato salad or cole slaws, try non-dairy alternatives such as vinaigrettes, guacamole, and humus, baked beans or washed veggies instead.
- Grill safer alternatives like Portobello mushrooms or veggie-dogs that are less likely to contain bacteria found in meat.
- Instead of cleaning your grill, used utensils or preparation space with a chemical cleaner, use vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
- When barbecuing, glowing coals indicate the pit is hot enough. Uncooked meat should be kept separate from everything else. Meat should be turned regularly.
Must-haves for safe summer picnics:
- Meat thermometer (Hotdogs and burgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, chicken to 165 degrees)
- Coolers and sealable containers (Keep meat at 40 degrees or below and separate from all other foods.)
- Ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
- Water, soap, and towels for washing hands
- Enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
- Large plastic bags for trash and for wrapping utensils that touched raw meats
- Foil or plastic wrap to keep bugs away from cooked foods and to store leftovers
No one can deny that summer days and barbeques go hand in hand. Keep your burgers safe as well as delicious!