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Have a Food Safe Fourth of July Weekend

With the July 4th holiday on Sunday, there will probably be more celebrations and some weekend long celebrations. The firecrackers are not the only safety issues to consider when celebrating. There are some food safety issues that should be kept in mind, because food borne illness is not on vacation for the holiday. It would be no fun to feel like firecrackers are going off inside your intestines for the rest of the holiday weekend just because of carelessness with food.

The same food safety rules for cleanliness apply when cooking out or camping out. It may be less convenient, but it is no less important to wash your hands before handling food, after handling raw meat or eggs, after touching animals, and after using the bathroom. Washing hands means scrubbing with preferably hot water and plenty of soap. Clean work surfaces are important also. Keep raw meat, poultry, or eggs away from foods that are cooked, or foods that will be eaten raw or partially cooked such as vegetables and fruits. This means washing any plate that contained raw meat or poultry thoroughly with HOT soapy water before putting cooked foods on that plate. Bring any marinade or sauce that has been in contact with raw meat to a rolling boil if you intend to serve it with the cooked meat. Don’t forget that the brush that is used to apply barbeque sauce can carry bacteria from raw meat back to the container if the brush is put back into the sauce.

Meats and poultry should be kept cold until ready to cook, then the meat should be thoroughly cooked. If you wish to microwave or precook meats for the grill, do it immediately before placing on the grill. Partially cooked meats are at the right temperature for bacterial growth that can lead to illness when left at that warm temperature for extended periods. Beef is thoroughly cooked when the center is brown/grey, and the juices are clear. There should be no pink on the chicken, and any juice should be clear. Sometimes the outside of the meat cooks quickly on the grill, but it is not safe to eat until the entire piece of meat is thoroughly cooked. Meat and poultry should be eaten while still hot. Food should not be at room temperature for more than two hours. Left over meats should be refrigerated or cooled as soon as possible, if they are to be consumed later. All leftovers should be reheated thoroughly.

All perishable foods should be kept COLD. There needs to be plenty of ice in ice chests to surround the foods that are sealed in containers. If you plan to eat cold fried chicken, it is best to cook it enough in advance to thoroughly chill it before putting it in an ice chest. Putting hot food in an ice chest to cool may lengthen the cool down process so bacteria may reproduce on the food to the point that it could cause illness. This is also true for meat, egg, cheese, or any mayonnaise-based salads. It is best to have foods thoroughly chilled before putting them into the ice chest.

Is homemade ice cream on the menu for this weekend? The use of raw eggs is the biggest danger associated with homemade ice cream. Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria are found on the shell and inside the egg itself. If Salmonella bacteria are consumed, after 6 to 48 hours, you will experience a headache, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. This can be very dangerous to babies, pregnant women, elderly, and chronically ill people. If your favorite recipe calls for raw eggs, use dried or pasteurized eggs. To use regular eggs to make ice cream, cook any flour or cornstarch, milk, and sugar together then add the beaten eggs and heat the mixture until it reaches 165E F., or until the mixture coats a metal spoon. Refrigerate this mixture until it is cool, then proceed with the ice cream recipe instructions.

I hope your July 4th weekend is safe and enjoyable. Handle your food safely, be moderate and careful if you consume alcohol, and use safe methods of handling fireworks to improve your chances that the weekend will not be spoiled.

Questions?  You can e-mail Judy at or call her direct at 573-547-4504.

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