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Keeping the BBQ safe

In or out of kitchen, combatting foodborne illnesses is a must

FORT LEE, Va. (May 11, 2017) – For many backyard chefs, the notion of guarding against foodborne illnesses at the family barbecue often falls off the menu.

And the results could literally turn your stomach.

"Whenever you ignore the precautions spelled out in 'Be Food Safe' you're gambling with being very sick, perhaps even to the point of being hospitalized," said Army Lt. Col. Alisa R. Wilma, the director of the Defense Commissary Agency's Public Health and Safety Directorate.

"We do our part to help safeguard the food sold in the commissary throughout the supply chain – from the farm to the store," she added. "However, it's also important for our commissary patrons to be just as vigilant in preventing foodborne illnesses by remembering to follow the tenets of Be Food Safe whenever they handle food."

Be Food Safe was created through the collaboration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent foodborne illnesses caused by consumers mishandling food at home.

Proper food handling can keep foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. coli and listeria from crashing the fun of any barbecue, said Chris Wicker, DeCA's public health advisor.

"Many people don't understand the risks of cross contamination and how juices from raw meats can transfer bacteria from one food to the next," he said.

Keeping cooked foods in clean plates and containers helps prevent cross contamination. Other tips include paying attention to cooking time and temperature, Wicker added. "A lot of pain can be avoided by simply ensuring all meats are properly and fully cooked, no food is left out beyond two hours, and cold foods are kept cold and hot foods hot."

Wilma added another tip in line with cooking and maintaining foods at the proper temperature: "Remember to clean your thermometer between uses, or you could be transferring disease-causing organisms from raw food to cooked food."

Applying "Be Food Safe" to your barbecue is as easy as adhering to the following basic food safety tips:

  • Be clean. Before cooking or eating – and definitely after using the bathroom – wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don't forget the grill; it should also be cleaned before preparation begins.
  • Separate the food. Keep raw food apart from cooked food. The juices from raw meats can contain bacteria that could transfer to other foods. That means use separate plates or containers for raw meat, poultry or seafood when moving food to the grill and different containers entirely for the cooked products unless the carriers have been washed thoroughly in soap and water. Also, keep cooking utensils and cooking surfaces clean from potential cross contamination.
  • Marinate in refrigerator. Any food that is marinating should be covered and kept in a refrigerator until ready to cook. Also, don't reuse marinade containing raw meat.
  • Cook it completely. This means you cannot take shortcuts on the amount of time it takes to thoroughly cook meat. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is ready to eat. For example, ground beef and pork should be cooked to 160 F, chicken to 165 F and steaks and roast to 145 F. For shrimp, lobster and crab, cook until pearly and opaque. You can use your microwave, oven or stove to precook the food immediately before placing it on the grill.
  • Chill and freeze – immediately. Food should never be off the grill or out of the cooler for more than two hours. And, when the outside temperature is hotter than 90 F, food can only be left out for an hour.
  • Keep it hot. Keep hot food wrapped, insulated in a container and at or above 140 F. Eat hot take-out food within two hours of purchase. When reheating food on the grill, make sure it reaches 165 F.
  • Keep it cold. If it's meant to be cold, it needs to stay that way at or below 40 F. Chicken salad, potato salad, bagged and green salads, and certain desserts must be protected from warm temperatures by placing them on ice in coolers. Remember to drain the water from melted ice in those coolers and replace ice as necessary.

Our Food Safety page is a good source for more information about proper food handling techniques.

For the latest food safety alerts and product recalls affecting military commissaries, visit the Food Recalls page. For general food safety information, visit the Healthy Living Resources page.

About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit and make no profit on the sale of merchandise. Authorized patrons save thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to commercial prices when shopping regularly at a commissary. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.

Media Contact:
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773

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