TOMS RIVER, NJ, May 20, 2015 – Summer is here, and that means the smell of barbeque in the air. Grilling is a great way to cook outdoors, but keeping everyone safe and healthy should be just as important as having fun at your next barbeque.
Barbeques are a fun and casual way to prepare many summertime staples, but they also provide ideal conditions for outbreaks of food borne illness. In addition, barbeque equipment poses a safety hazard and should be used with care and concern to prevent injuries, explosions, burns or fires.
Chef Thomas Yanisko, Administrative Director of Food Service and Nutrition at Community Medical Center in Toms River, said handling, preparing, cooking and storing food properly is imperative when planning your next summertime barbeque to help steer clear of potential food borne illness.
"Organisms that cause food borne illness are difficult to detect because they do not have an odor, color, texture or taste," Yanisko said. "Common bacteria that can cause food poisoning include salmonella, e. coli and campylobacter, to name a few. These can all result in symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and abdominal cramps."
Yanisko said while food poisoning is rarely fatal, it can be life-threatening to unborn babies, infants, the elderly or those with already compromised immune systems. He offered the following tips to handle, cook and store food properly at your next barbeque:
- Always wash and dry hands before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
- Properly thaw frozen food before cooking it. Thaw food in the refrigerator and keep it cold until it is cooked.
Keep raw meats away from cooked foods. Never put cooked food on a plate that has held raw meat unless it has been washed thoroughly.
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked food. Wash all cooking items in hot, soapy water.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator.
- Move food around the barbeque and turn it frequently to assure it cooks evenly. All poultry should reach in internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and ground beef and pork should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit (use a meat thermometer to check temperatures).
- Keep cold foods (such as salads) on ice while being served.
- Perishable food should be refrigerated or discarded after two hours.
- Remember oil based marinades and bastes can cause grill "flare ups."
Yanisko said the way meat is cooked on a barbeque is just as important as handling it before and after. "It is important to make sure meat is grilled throughout, and not blackened on the outside and raw on the inside. This takes some patience and practice, and the use of a meat thermometer also helps a great deal," he said.
The barbeque equipment itself must also be maintained and used properly to ensure everyone's safety. Kelley Esposito, Director, Safety Management at Community Medical Center, said taking a few minutes to inspect your barbeque and prepare for cooking may prevent serious injuries from occurring.
"Every year, adults and children alike are injured as the result of a barbeque mishap," Esposito said. "People get burned, fires are started and explosions can occur. Keeping a few safety measures in mind can help prevent these types of incidents." He offered the following barbeque safety suggestions:
- Check the gas tank or propane cylinder and hoses for leaks, cracks, dents, rust, blockages and proper connections.
- Hose ends and regulator connections can be simply and safely checked by spraying a soapy water solution on them. Bubbles will form if gas is escaping.
- Always barbeque in a clear space. Make sure the barbeque is located on level ground. Place the barbeque downwind (blowing away from you) to avoid fumes and smoke.
- Keep barbeques away from overhangs, trees, fences or other flammable objects.
- Do not wear loose fitting clothing (especially loose sleeves that can catch on fire) while grilling. Wear protective apparel such as an apron and oven mitts.
- Use only approved lighter fluids and charcoal to start the barbeque. Never add lighter fluid to an existing fire.
- Open the lid of the barbeque before lighting it. This allows gas to dispense and prevents an explosion.
- Always keep an approved fire extinguisher on hand when barbequing.
- Never, ever use a barbeque indoors.
- Light the barbeque at arm's length and never put your face over the surface.
- Keep children away from the barbeque, matches and lighter fluid.
Both Yanisko and Esposito said that outdoor grilling and summertime barbeques should be a fun, safe, healthy experience. By taking a little extra time to account for safety and security, a good time can be had by all.