Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, where many Americans will be celebrating Independence Day. Unlike last year, this year’s Fourth will look a lot closer to previous years, with backyard barbecues, picnics and firework displays. But let’s not let the year off have us forget important food safety practices to keep this Fourth safe from food poisoning.

No matter how you’re celebrating the Fourth of July, make good food safety practices a part of the celebration.

Follow these tips from the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure a food safe Fourth of July:

Don’t cross-contaminate
Always keep raw meat and their juices from touching other foods. While grilling, avoid using the same utensils for cooked and ready-to-eat foods that were previously used with raw meat or poultry products. Wash and sanitize all surfaces and utensils after they touch raw items.

A recent USDA survey showed that 34 percent of respondents do not follow an important step to use a different utensil to take food off the grill. Take enough serving utensils and dishes to keep your raw meat and poultry away from any cooked or ready-to-eat foods and have extra cleaning and sanitizing supplies ready for your surfaces, plates and utensils.

 Use a food thermometer
Some grill masters may say they know their food is done just by looking at its color when it comes off the grill. That’s not possible and shouldn’t be relied upon. This is where a food thermometer comes in.

“More than 25 percent of burgers can turn brown inside before they are fully cooked,” says FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “Although your grilled foods may look done, foodborne illness causing germs are not killed until the safe internal temperature has been reached. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know your food is done and safe to eat.”

The USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures are:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees F then rest for three minutes
  • Fish: 145 degrees F
  • Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal): 160 degrees F
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165 degrees F

Keep foods at safe temperatures
Perishable food items should not be left outside for more than two hours, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90 degrees F. Keep your food at or below 40 degrees F, in coolers or containers with a cold source, such as ice or frozen gel packs. This includes any leftovers from the grill, cold salads and even freshcut fruits and vegetables. Leftovers should be refrigerated or placed back in the cooler within two hours of being placed outside (one hour if temperatures are at or above 90 degrees F). If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out immediately.

If you have questions about these tips, or any other food safety topics, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

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