Memorial Day marks the first outdoor celebration in summer for much of the U.S. and that means this is the first time many of us will be at the grill again in quite some time.

If you’re celebrating, it’s good to review these important outdoor food safety tips to keep everyone safe this Memorial Day weekend.

Wash hands

It is important to follow proper handwashing steps before, during, and after preparing food to prevent bacteria from transferring from your hands to your meal.

According to a recent USDA consumer research, 56 percent of participants didn’t attempt to wash their hands during meal preparation. This is a major drop in handwashing attempts from the prior years of research.

In addition to low attempts at handwashing, roughly 95 percent of participants failed to wash their hands properly. The most common reason in the study for unsuccessful handwashing was failing to rub hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, followed by not wetting hands with water as a first step.

There are five steps for proper handwashing: wet hands, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry.

Use a food thermometer
Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your food to determine if it is safe to eat. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, or through the side or burgers, for the most accurate temperature reading. 

Use a food thermometer to ensure the following foods have reached their safe internal temperature:

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    Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts: 145 degrees F with a 3-minute rest

  • Fish: 145 degrees F
  • Egg dishes: 160 degrees F
  • Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, veal, venison, etc.): 160 degrees F
  • All poultry (whole or ground): 165 degrees F

Separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from RTE foods
If you are planning to cook for the holiday weekend, inside or out, separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. Use one cooler for raw meats and poultry and another for RTE foods such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and desserts. Take two sets of plates and utensils for handling raw meats and for serving cooked foods to limit the chances of cross-contamination.

Watch the heat

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Summer weather can be hot and humid, which means food won’t stay safe as long as it would indoors. When the temperature outside is above 90 degrees F, perishable food such as meat and poultry, dips and cold salads, or cut fruits and vegetables are only safe out on the table for one hour.

Keeping cold foods cold is an important step to keep food safe and healthy, so store them on ice, in coolers, or in your refrigerator and freezer.

Just like cold foods, hot perishable foods should be kept warm, above 140 degrees F, until they’re eaten. You can easily do this by moving these items to the side of your grill away from the main heat source, rather than taking them off the grill entirely. 

Pathogen vectors
Bags of chips, fruit platters, condiments and other foods can be vectors for pathogens via cross-contamination by people if they don’t wash their hands. 

Norovirus can be spread through foods and also in pools, and ponds, lakes and creeks can be a breeding ground for E. coli. Touching playground equipment in parks and backyards can lead to bird poop on hotdogs, hamburgers and buns. 

Parents should make sure children wash their hands correctly and use hand sanitizers before eating.

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