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Saftety tips for grilling season (06/02/2004)
With the summer grilling season nearly here, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) reminds Minnesotans they can take action to protect themselves and their families from food-borne illness.

Every year, thousands of Minnesotans suffer from food-borne illnesses. While most cases cause only a few hours or days of discomfort, such illnesses can cause life-threatening complications in very young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. MDA Dairy and Food Director Kevin Elfering said consumers are a key link in the food-safety chain because most food-borne illnesses can be prevented by safe food handling and preparation.

"Outdoor grilling is a summer tradition for Minnesotans, but each year thousands of us get sick after eating contaminated food," Elfering said. "As the grilling season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, we want people to know that food safety is a responsibility for consumers as much as it is for farmers, food processors and retailers."

Elfering said consumers can greatly reduce their risk of food-borne illness by following 10 simple tips:

1. Before handling meat or grilling utensils, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Do the same after handling meat, and between handling meat and other food to avoid cross-contamination;

2. Keep cold foods cold. If meat or poultry is stored in a cooler or refrigerator, only take out the amount that will be used on the grill. Open the cooler as few times as possible;

3. Thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow thawing and the microwave for quick thawing - never thaw meat on the counter;

4. If you like to precook, do it immediately before placing meat on the grill. If you have to transport food after precooking, keep it hot until it's placed on the grill;

5. Always use a thermometer to determine if food is done. The following meats should be cooked to the listed temperature (in Fahrenheit) to ensure safety: Whole poultry - 180o , poultry breast - 170 o, hamburgers, pork products and steaks injected with seasonings or tenderizers - 160o; and steak - 145 o;

6. Once foods are cooked, keep them hot until served.

7. Never place cooked meat on dishes already used for raw meat.

8. Food should never sit out for more than one hour in warm weather. If it does, discard it.

9. Store leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours after taking them off the grill. Keep different meat and poultry products separated and sufficiently wrapped to avoid cross-contamination.

10. As an extra safety step, consider using irradiated meat for grilling. Irradiation is a safe processing practice that kills harmful bacteria in meat without spoiling its taste. This is an especially good alternative for high-risk people such as young children and seniors. 

 

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