Stay Safe at the Grill this Fourth of July

( Jennifer Shike )

Fourth of July is going to look a little different this year for most Americans. However, one thing will likely remain the same. People will be enjoying the sunshine and eating outdoors. Regardless of your celebration plans, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers three ways you can prioritize food safety and public health this holiday.

“Foodborne illness can increase during summer because of the warmer temperatures and extended time spent outside,” says Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety in a release. “You may not be grilling at the park this year, but instead you may be grilling at home. As we celebrate this Fourth of July holiday, I encourage consumers to use food safety steps to reduce their risk of illness.”

Here are three ways you can have a food-safe Fourth of July:

1. Don’t Cross-Contaminate.
Always keep raw meat and their juices from touching other foods, USDA recommends. While grilling, don't use the same utensils for cooked and ready-to-eat foods that were previously used with raw meat or poultry products. Be sure to wash and sanitize all surfaces and utensils after they touch raw items. In a recent USDA survey, 34% of respondents said they do not follow this important step to use a different utensil to take food off the grill. Bring enough tools outside to the grill to keep your raw meat and poultry away from any cooked or ready-to-eat foods, USDA recommends. Don't forget to have extra cleaning and sanitizing supplies ready for your surfaces, plates and utensils.

2. Use a Food Thermometer.
Don't judge if your meat is done by the color it is when it comes off the grill. That’s not possible and shouldn’t be relied upon, USDA says. 

“More than 25% of burgers can turn brown inside before they are fully cooked,” says FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker in a release. “Although your grilled foods may look done, foodborne illness causing germs are not killed until the safe internal temperature has been reached. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know your food is done and safe to eat.”

The USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures are:

--Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F then rest for three-minutes 
--Fish: 145°F
--Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal): 160°F
--Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165°F

3. Keep Foods at a Safe Temperature.
Don't leave perishable food items outside for more than two hours, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90°F. Keep your food at or below 40°F, in coolers or containers with a cold source, such as ice or frozen gel packs, USDA says. Leftovers should be refrigerated or placed back in the cooler within two hours of being outside (one hour if temperatures are at or above 90°F). If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out as it's not worth the potential risk to your health.

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