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Keeping Summer Food Events and Barbecues Safe and Fun

Serving up a Safe Summer Barbecue

Summer is the prime time for patio picnics. Warmer weather conditions may be ideal for outdoor barbecues but they also provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness. During the summer months it is especially important to practice safe food handling when preparing perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and low acid fruits such as melons. The Wyoming Food Safety Coalition offers the following suggestions to reduce the risk of foodborne illness this summer.

  • Put raw meat, fish, and poultry on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator so the juices don't drip on foods that won't be cooked.
  • Before handling any meat products or grilling utensils, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Do the same after handling meat and between handling different types of meat products to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Store meat or poultry in a cooler or refrigerator and only take out the amount that will be used on the grill. Open the cooler as few times as possible.
  • Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator or microwave before grilling so it cooks evenly. Never thaw meat on the counter at room temperature.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. If some of the marinade is to be used for basting during cooking or as a sauce on cooked food, reserve a portion. Do not put raw meat or poultry in it. Never reuse the marinade from raw meat on cooked food unless it is boiled first to destroy bacteria.
  • Always use a thermometer to determine if food is done. Ground beef should be cooked to 160° F while large cuts of beef such as roasts and steaks may be cooked to 145° F for medium rare or to 160° F for medium. Cook ground poultry to 165° F and poultry parts to 170° F. Fish should be opaque and flake easily. When heating fully cooked foods like hot dogs, grill to 165° F.
  • When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food items back on the same plate that previously held raw food.
  • Food should never sit out for more than one hour in warm weather. If it does, discard it. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and keep different types of meat and poultry products separated and sufficiently wrapped to avoid cross–contamination.
  • To reduce risk of foodborne illness even further, consider using irradiated meat for grilling. Irradiation is a safe processing practice that kills harmful bacteria in meat, without spoiling taste. This is a good alternative for highly susceptible individuals, such as young children and seniors. Keep in mind that irradiated meat still requires safe food handling practices to avoid recontamination.

When serving melons at your barbecue, the Wyoming Food Safety Coalition recommends washing the fruit with drinking water before cutting to remove surface dirt. Hands and all surface areas should be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water and rinsed. Cut melons may be served without refrigeration for a maximum of four hours. At the end of that time, any leftover melon should be thrown away.

These tips for smarter, safer barbecuing are brought to you by the Wyoming Food Safety Coalition (WFSC), as well as the Wyoming Beef Council, and the Cheyenne/Laramie County Health Department.Serving Up a Safe Summer Barbecue, prepared by Ann Wittmann, Wyoming Beef – Council, 307-777-7396

Safe Temporary Food Events

Along with the nice summer weather comes an increase in temporary food events. If you advertise that your event is open to the public, and food is being prepared or served, chances are you need a temporary food permit. If your event is a private function with only invited guests consuming food, you may not need a temporary food permit. If you are unsure about whether or not your event needs a permit, please contact us.

To obtain a temporary food permit visit the Cheyenne/Laramie County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health at 100 Central Avenue, or call us at 307-633-4090. We also provide free temporary food service training for individuals or groups.

For more information on food safety contact the Cheyenne/Laramie County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health, 307-633-4090.

Article prepared by: Katie Hilla, Environmental Health Specialist, Cheyenne/Laramie County Health Department.