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Make sure food safety’s on your Fourth of July menu

If you’re not transporting it ice don’t cut up watermeluntil reaching your destination. Plastic gloves aren’t bad ideeither. | Matthew

If you’re not transporting it on ice, don’t cut up the watermelon until reaching your destination. Plastic gloves aren’t a bad idea, either. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 5, 2012 6:11AM

Even the most well-meaning cooks and grill masters can turn the family barbecue or picnic into a food-safety disaster.

As you prepare for your Fourth of July get-together, keep in mind basic safety precautions to protect relatives and guests — especially the elderly, preschoolers or those on chemotherapy— who are vulnerable to food poisoning or food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria infections.

Undercooked hamburgers are one risk. But here’s one experts say you might not have considered: watermelon that’s cut at home and transported in a hot car, then served without refrigeration.

Better option would be to cut the melon once you arrive. If you want to cut the fruit ahead of time, keep it chilled on ice during transport.

Also, it’s good to invest in an inexpensive food thermometer to make sure that meat has reached the right temperature on the grill.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees and that poultry be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

On the way to the barbecue site experts recommend that raw meat be kept in a separate cooler from other products. That will help keep meat juices from dripping on other things.

It’s also important not to leave foods that can spoil out too long because they will become a breeding ground for bacteria. Such foods can be left out for two hours when the weather is relatively mild (less than 90 degrees), but when it’s hotter, perishable food can be left out only for an hour safely.

Other safety steps to follow:

† Keep hot things hot and cold things cold.

† Wash your hands. A lot. If there’s no water available, have a backup plan, such as bringing along hand sanitizer.

† No reusing a plate that had raw meat on it for, say, the buns later. Not unless it is washed thoroughly before re-use.

Gannett News Service

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