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Food safety tips for a summer cookout

5 Brilliant Shortcuts That Will Make Your Next Barbecue So Much Easier
Posted at 7:10 PM, May 24, 2024

Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff for summer. Montana has experienced a batch of storms bringing some late spring moisture — the holiday to celebrate those who gave their lives in American conflicts heats up.

The summer cookout, camping trip, or mountain hike leaves perishable foods at risk of bacteria growth.

Food safety tips for a summer cookout

"The bacteria that cause foodborne illness love the summertime as much as we do because they thrive and multiply quickly in warmer temperatures. This causes illnesses to spike during the summer,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Emilio Esteban in a Press Release from the USDA. “As we all spend more time outside, it is important to remember these food safety steps to keep your friends and family safe.”

It might sound like common knowledge but a refresher might be needed.

From the dawn of time, parents have taught you to wash your hands before handling or eating food. The same goes for the Memorial Day BBQ.

When running water is available, wet your hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. If no running water is available use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer or moistened towelettes.

Where the dangers of foodborne illness comes into play — transporting perishable foods in cold sources like a cooler or insulated container.

The USDA says perishable food items should be kept below 40 F. Grab an extra back or ice or frozen gel packs, and frozen beverages such as bottled water, iced tea, and juices (apple or grape). Storing those frozen items in a cooler can help replace blocked or cubed ice.

Keeping ice chests, coolers, and open food out of direct sunlight. Food that is meant to be warm should be kept at a steady temperature above 140F. Anything meant to be cool should be kept over a bed of ice.

The USDA offers an easy "2-Hour Rule" — foods should not be left out for more than two hours (one hour if the outside temperature is over 90F). Any other items would be considered unsafe and need to be discarded — When in doubt, throw it out!

The USDA also offers a Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email MPHotline@usda.gov or chat live at www.ask.usda.gov 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.