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July 3, 2000

Burgers? Make Mine Well Done!

Some common and not so common-sense tips from the Tennessee Deptartment of Health

If a picnic or cookout will be part of your Independence Day celebration, be sure to practice good food safety outdoors just as you would in your kitchen.

Dr. Tim Jones, Director of the Department of Health's FoodNet Program, says it's not ants that we should worry will invade our picnics, but dangerous bacteria. "More than 30 million Americans will suffer from a foodborne illness this year, but most cases could be prevented through safe food handling," said Jones. "Following some simple food safety rules can prevent your holiday gathering from turning into holiday misfortune."

  • Don't partially pre-cook meats to get a head start before your guests arrive. Partial cooking can encourage bacterial growth. You can fully cook foods ahead of time and then keep them chilled until time to reheat them.

  • There may be a lot of hungry people waiting for those burgers to come off the grill, but don't be tempted to take them off until they're thoroughly cooked. A medium rare steak isn't dangerous, but hamburgers shouldn't have any pink . During slaughter, E coli 0157 bacteria, which is present in the intestines of cattle, may come into contact with meat as it is ground. The bacteria are killed when the meat is adequately cooked, but can survive in meat that is rare.

  • Always cook hamburgers until the juice runs clear, as well as grilled poultry. Be sure not to put the cooked food back on the same platter that held raw meat.

  • Don't use the same marinade that held raw meat to baste foods during the last 10 minutes of cooking. If you want to continue basting throughout cooking, reserve some marinade ahead of time for that purpose.

  • Avoid using recipes such as homemade ice cream that contain raw eggs, since they carry a risk of salmonella. But if you must, then use eggs that have been pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria inside. Pasteurized eggs are now available in some retail grocery stores in the refrigerated section.

  • Keeping your hands clean in the great outdoors can present a challenge. Plan ahead to make provisions if you will be picnicking in a location where you won't have access to soap and running water. Wash your hands often, especially after handling raw meat.

  • Don't leave food out for people to eat all during the day. Foods should not be keep at room temperature for more than two hours. Use a cooler to keep perishable foods chilled. A block of ice will last longer than ice cubes. To keep the lid closed as much as possible, consider putting drinks in a separate cooler.

  • A glass of tea is refreshing, but . . . it could contain potentially harmful organisms. Brew tea ahead of time for a minimum of five minutes at 175 degrees F. or above. Any other method of brewing at a lower temperature, such as preparing "sun tea," should be avoided. Don't keep tea at room temperature for more than eight hours.

Source: Tennessee Department of Health

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