State warns people about food safety at the start of grilling season

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – With a warm Memorial Day weekend on the way, state health officials are reminding people to keep food safety in mind when grilling this summer.

“Make sure your Memorial Day weekend is remembered for the good food you serve by taking some simple precautions when preparing, grilling and serving your food,” said Tracey Weeks, DPH Food Protection Program Coordinator. “Food safety is just as important when you’re cooking outside as it is when you’re cooking inside. Following a few simple steps can help ensure the success of your barbecues and picnics by preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses that can make your guests ill.”

Here are the state’s top tips:

Wash hands – Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and dry your hands with a paper towel following restroom use, before preparing foods, after handling raw meat, and before eating. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat products and before handling other foods. Clean hands will help prevent the spread of illness-causing microorganisms.

Clean – Wash food-contact surfaces in a dishwasher and use the sanitizing cycle. Otherwise, wash with warm soapy water. Bacteria can spread and get onto cutting boards, knives and counter tops. Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing.

Separate – Be sure to use separate plates and utensils for cooked and uncooked foods. Bacteria from uncooked meats and poultry can cause illness in your guests if they contaminate cooked food. Don’t reuse marinade – discard after food is removed for cooking. If basting is required, use a freshly prepared marinade.

Take temperatures – Cook food thoroughly. The most common minimum internal cooking temperatures are 158 degrees Fahrenheit for hamburgers, 145 degrees Fahrenheit for steaks and ribs, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check temperatures.

Keep it cold (or hot) – Keep cold food refrigerated until it is ready to be placed on the grill. Consume immediately or hold hot on the grill. Do not hold cooked foods at room temperature. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Cold foods should be kept below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t cook if sick – Most importantly, let someone else prepare the food if you have, or recently had, symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea. Foodborne illness is easily spread from people to food when those with even mild symptoms unknowingly contaminate food.

For more information and free literature about food safety, contact the DPH Food Protection Program at (860) 509-7297 or visit


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