Food Safety Tips for July 4th Parties

Planning a July 4th BBQ or picnic? Following is some advice from a Rutgers University poison control expert on how to prepare and store food safely.

"Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster," said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "Don't prepare food if you have any kind of respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of becoming ill. No matter how busy your kitchen gets during the holidays, always remember the risks of improperly handling food."

Food poisoning peaks in the summer, because warmer temperatures allow foodborne germs to multiply quickly. "It's important to remember the 'danger zone' as it pertains to food safety: The risk of food poisoning increases between 40°F and 140°F," said Calello. "The effects of food poisoning can happen between a few hours to a few days after ingestion. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever."

Periodically check pantries, refrigerators and freezers to make sure recalled foods linked to contamination and outbreaks are removed. Food contamination is a real concern not just for meat and seafood products, but also for fresh fruits and vegetables. Since foods can become contaminated at any point from the harvest to table process, remember to follow basic food safety practices when preparing, cooking and storing foods:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing foods.
  • When shopping, always pick up meat, poultry or seafood right before checking out and keep these items separate from other items in your cart.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well and keep them from touching any surfaces or utensils that were exposed to raw meat.
  • Meat, poultry, should be kept refrigerated or in a cooler until you are ready to start cooking.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat is cooked all the way through, to a temperature hot enough to kill harmful bacteria and germs.
  • Leftovers should be divided into smaller portions and placed in covered shallow containers – allowing the food to cool properly to prevent bacteria from growing.
  • All food especially hot dishes, meat/poultry/seafood, salads, or items containing mayonnaise should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, or within one hour if the temperature is 90°F or above.

Avoid eating raw cookie dough, bread batter or cake/brownie mixes as it contains raw ingredients that may be contaminated with a variety of harmful germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites): E. coli from the flour and salmonella from eggs. Baked/cooked goods are safe to eat because the high temperatures in the cooking process kills bacteria.