HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — As the meat sizzles on the grill this holiday weekend, the United States Department of Agriculture reminds the public of a few food safety tips.

“Don’t forget to bring your safe food handling practices along for the adventure,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin. “As temperatures rise, the risk for foodborne illness does too. Always remember that whether you’re grilling for the Fourth of July, camping, or boating, you should wash your hands before and during food prep.”

Clean and Sanitize

Sanitation is key to combating foodborne illness. USDA reminds individuals to be sure to wash your hands and sanitize cooking areas before preparing food.

It is recommended to always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry, according to a press release from the Food Safety and Inspection Service Department. Hand sanitizer is not as effective as handwashing, but it’s better than nothing.

Wash surfaces and utensils with soap and warm water before cooking and after contact with raw meat and poultry. After cleaning surfaces that raw meat and poultry have touched, apply a commercial or homemade sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.)

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination is another risk for any fun in the sun cooking. Cross-contamination can happen even when grilling or getting food prepared to grill.

Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat. Any utensils that contacted raw meat must also be cleaned. Use separate plates for taking raw meat to the grill and then pulling cooked meat off the grill.

USDA recommends using separate cutting boards; one for meat, and another for fruits and vegetables.

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

Whether you’re transporting food to go hiking, camping, to a barbeque, or a picnic, the rule stays the same: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, according to the release.

Food is in the “Danger Zone” when it is in the temperature range of 40 F and 140 F. If in the “Danger Zone” for too long, bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. Perishable foods (such as hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken wings) should be discarded if left out longer than two hours, or one hour if outdoor or indoor temperatures in the area are above 90 F.

The warmer the temperature, the sooner food needs to be refrigerated. Be sure to bring a cooler with ice to the next cookout to preserve any perishable foods.

Use a Food Thermometer

Many people use cues like grill marks, color, taste, and firmness to see if their food is fully cooked, but these tests come with a great risk of getting food poisoning, stated the release.

Measuring the internal temperature of the meat with a food thermometer is the safest way to see if your food is fully cooked. Be sure that the thermometer reaches the thickest part of the meat, through the side, for the most accurate temperature reading.

Whatever you’re cooking, be sure to use a food thermometer. The following foods are safe to eat once they’ve reached these internal temperatures:

  • Cook beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to 145 F. For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Cook fish to 145 F.
  • Cook ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal) to 160 F.
  • Cook ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to 160 F.
  • Cook egg dishes to 160 F.
  • Cook poultry (whole or ground) to 165 F.

For more food safety information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at1-888-674-6854, email MPHotline@usda.gov or chat live HERE.