Fourth of July food safety tips

By Shakera Williams, LSU Ag Center, Webster and Claiborne parishes

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022), approximately 48 million individuals get sick,128,000 are hospitalized and sadly 3,000 people die from a foodborne illness each year in the United States. Foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is an illness that comes from a food that you eat. It is important that adult consumers know and practice safe food-handling behaviors regularly to help reduce and prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Foodborne pathogens can appear on foods that looks completely normal; however, unsafe foods may carry bacteria, viruses, or parasites which can make an individual extremely sick. The rule of thumb is to never taste a food to determine if it is safe to eat. When in doubt throw it out. To reduce the spread of foodborne illness please follow these four food safety tips below. 

  1. Clean : Wash hands and surfaces often

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

• Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or

handling pets.

• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and preparation of any other food that will not be cooked. As an added precaution, sanitize cutting boards and countertops by rinsing them in a solution made of one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or, as an alternative, you may run the plastic board through the wash cycle in your dishwasher.

• Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If using cloth towels, you should wash them often in the hot cycle of the washing machine.

• Wash produce. Rinse fruits and vegetables, and rub firm-skin fruits and

vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds

that are not eaten.

• With canned goods: remember to clean lids before opening.

  1. Separate: Don’t cross- contaminate 

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when handling raw meat, poultry, seafood,

and eggs. The key message is to keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

To prevent cross-contamination, remember to:

• Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your

grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.

• Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat,

poultry, seafood, or eggs without first washing the plate with hot soapy water.

• Don’t reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.

• Consider using one cutting board only for raw foods and another only for

ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meat.

  1. Cook: Cook foods to safe internal temperatures

To ensure that your foods are cooked safely, always:

• Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. Remember color is not an indicator of the doneness of foods. Check the internal temperature in several places to make sure that the meat, poultry, seafood, or egg product is cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures. 

  1. Chill: Refrigerate promptly

Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure

the refrigerator temperature is always 40 °F or below and the freezer temperature is 0 °F or below.

To chill foods properly:

• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within

2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature

outside is above 90 °F.

• Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the countertop. It is safe to

thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. If you thaw

food in cold water or in the microwave, you should cook it immediately. When using the cold-water method to thaw foods, the water must be changed every 30 minutes, so the food item continues to thaw and not enter the danger zone. The “Danger Zone,” is between 40 and 140 °degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures bacteria multiplies more rapidly.

• Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.