(Washington, DC) – As temperatures and outdoor grills heat-up this Memorial Day weekend, the DC Department of Health (DOH) reminds residents of the importance of food safety during outside celebrations. When cooking both inside and out, it is important for residents to keep in mind that food poisoning can occur by eating food that has not been well cleaned, cooked or stored at appropriate temperatures. Precaution should be taken when preparing and eating foods outside, as a person can become sick from bacteria and viruses that are passed from person to person, typically by people who do not properly wash their hands. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
"Some of the best times spent with friends and family is during the hot summer holidays by the pool, at cookouts, or at the park. But before residents gear up for outdoor festivities, they should safeguard themselves and others by incorporating safe and healthy food techniques when grilling outdoors," said DOH Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter. "By following the appropriate cleanliness and temperature guidelines, especially in the absence of easy to access running water and refrigeration, residents will be able to ensure that they have a safe, happy and healthy weekend."
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following four simple steps to ensure food safety:
1. Clean – Wash your hands and any food preparation surfaces often with warm, soapy water, particularly after handling raw food and going to the restroom.
2. Separate – Pack raw food in a separate cooler from any ready-to-eat food items. Always rewash plates, cutting boards, and utensils that have touched raw food before using them again for cooked food.
3. Cook – Cook food at temperatures high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Poultry should be cooked until an internal temperature of at least 165ºF is reached. Ground beef hamburgers should be cooked until an internal temperature of at least 160ºF is reached.
4. Chill – Keep perishable items at below 40ºF by using ice cubes and ice packs. Leftovers should be put in a cooler as quickly as possible. Foods that should be kept cold are considered unsafe when left at 90ºF for more than one hour.
For more detailed information on safe outdoor food practices, visit the USDA Barbecue Food Safety page: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Barbecue_Food_Safety
If you think you may have gotten sick from something you may have eaten, call the DOH Food Bourne Illness Coordinator at (202) 442-8141. If you are severely ill, please visit your health care provider.