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Food Safety for Backyard Chefs

KNOXVILLE, May 24, 2004 —

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer - and backyard grilling.

But before heading out your kitchen door to cook those beloved burgers, consider these important suggestions by Ann Draughon, co-director of the University of Tennessee Food Safety Center of Excellence.

"As soon as the weather warms up, we uncover our grills and begin barbecuing our meals," Draughon says.

"It's all part of summertime fun, but we should take extra precautions, particularly in the warmer weather, to make sure we don't fall prey to food-borne illnesses, more commonly referred to as 'food poisoning'," she says.

No one wants food poisoning, which is easily prevented by following these simple safety measures offered by Draughon:

  • Keep your meats refrigerated or properly chilled until time for cooking. Bacteria thrive and quickly multiply in the "danger zone" between 40 and 140 degree F.
  • If meat is packed in a cooler, put meats in non-leaking containers and on the bottom so meat juices do not spill onto other foods.
  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds (roughly the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice) before, during and after food preparation. Unwashed hands are the number one cause of food-borne illnesses.
  • Use meat thermometers to make sure cooked meats are reaching the proper internal temperature to kill dangerous food pathogens. Beef steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees, ground beef to 160 degrees, chicken breasts to 170 degrees and chicken thighs to 180 degrees.

    "We can't rely on cutting a hamburger patty to see if it's done," Draughon says. "Color is not a reliable testing method. A meat thermometer is the best way to make sure proper internal temperatures have been reached."

  • Do not use the same plate used to carry raw meat for serving. Wash cutting boards and knives carefully in hot water with a small amount of chlorine (1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water) before using them again. Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables. It is highly recommended that cutting boards be put in a regular dishwasher cycle after each use or placed wet in a microwave on high for a couple of minutes to kill bacteria and virus.
  • Hot foods should be eaten hot, cold foods eaten cold. Again, bacteria thrive between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees F. Food should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, 1 hour when outdoor temperatures are hot.

Established in July 2001, the UT Food Safety Center of Excellence develops and evaluates strategies for destroying or controlling food-borne pathogens and reducing their occurrence on the farm, in food distribution and retail centers and ultimately in the home. The Center's multi-disciplinary team of researchers includes scientists with expertise in microbiology, food science, animal and plant production, infectious diseases risk assessment, food service management, and other areas.

The team's efforts are coordinated by the Center's co-directors: Dr. Ann Draughon, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, and Dr. Stephen Oliver, a professor in the Department of Animal Science.

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Contact: Linda Cabage, 865-974-7141

Link: Original news item on UTIA website.