Jul 29, 2014
Football season is upon us If you are like me, you can't
wait to see some hard hitting action on the football field and
doing some arm chair quarterbacking along the way. Tailgate
parties and football parties with your friends around the house
will be here shortly.
And with the temperatures really getting hot over the U.S. you
need to be aware of the dangers of food poisoning. And it is just
not about the dangers associated with cooking a particular meat
but it is also about the serving of meats and side dishes you
need to pay attention to as well. The one thing that can ruin one
of these gatherings is someone getting sick from eating some of
the food being served. So with the hot summer months here now,
when we go on camping trips, go to family reunions, go on
vacations, and go to parties with our friends you just need to be
extra careful in the handling and storing of not only the food we
are taking with us, but to also be careful with foods that are
There are temperatures that you need to know when cooking meats.
These are the lowest temperatures the FDA has approved for the
cooking of meats, in other words if you are cooking a piece of
meat and the internal temperature reaches these temperatures for
at least a 3 minute time you should be fine with the meat you are
Beef (whole cuts) - 145 degrees internal
temperature for beef except ground beef
Ground beef - Recommended to cook to 165
degrees internal temperature
Pork (whole cuts) - 145 degrees internal
temperature (165 degrees for ground pork)
Chicken and turkey - 165 degrees internal
temperature (juices of the chicken or turkey will run clear)
Uncooked sausage - cook to 165 degrees
Cooked sausage - cook to at least 145 degrees
We all love to cook on our grills and smokers and we all consider
ourselves pretty darn careful in the way we handle and prepare
our food. But sometimes we have to watch out for the other guy as
well. Especially when the temperature outside is over 90 degrees
and food is being served outside.
What exactly is food poisoning?
You get food poisoning from eating food that is contaminated with
bacteria or other pathogens such as parasites or viruses. Your
symptoms may range from upset stomach to diarrhea, fever,
abdominal cramps, vomiting, and dehydration. Most cases of the
mild food poisonings go undiagnosed and or unreported. They
usually only run for 24 to 48 hours but those few hours are
terrible on us.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every
year about 76 million people in the US become ill from pathogens
in food and about 5,000 of those will die from the illness. So
the numbers are large.
The two biggest causes of food poisoning according to the Center
of Disease Control and Prevention are:
1. 55% of the cases are caused by improper cooking and storage
2. 24% by poor hygiene (such a as not washing your hands while
There are about 20 organisms that cause food poisoning. In short,
when you eat food contaminated with bacteria, the bacteria
multiply in your stomach and bowels. As a result, you can get
nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. This is the
body's way of cleaning itself of the bacteria. Not all organisms
cause diarrhea and some cause blood in your stool is considered
to be more serious than the other forms of bacteria infection.
Common Sources of Food Poisoning
1. Campylobacter is the leading cause of bacteria in food and
is generally caused by eating undercooked chicken or food that
has been in contact with raw chicken. It is estimated that
between 70% to 90% of chickens are infected with campylobacter.
2. E coli infection is a result of eating undercooked,
contaminated meat. The organism that causes this lives in the
intestines of healthy cows. Meat can become contaminated during
slaughter when intestine fecal matter is mixed with beef that is
ground into hamburger. Contaminated meat looks and smells normal
so it is not easily detected by the human eye or nose.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
To prevent the disease, cook chicken thoroughly, with no pink
remaining. Wash your hands frequently when handling raw chicken.
Use paper towels to dry your hands and then dispose of them
If you are using a sponge or dish-cloth to clean the
counters, use a fresh one after working with or cleaning up raw
chicken juices. You should also wash your cutting board in a
diluted bleach solution (you can buy the stuff now) before using
Easiest and cheapest way to do this is to make your own
bleaching solution. All you do is mix 1 capful of bleach in a
gallon of water and you will have a great cleaning solution to
keep around the pit and kitchen area. I use a spray
bottle with the solution in it and spray down all of the shelves
and counters after dealing with raw chickens and other raw meats.
And use paper towels to dry off the shelves after you have
sprayed them down. And any utensils that you used around raw
chicken should be washed and then rinsed in the bleach solution
and then rinsed in clean water before using them again.
For E coli the best prevention is to cook all ground beef until
there is no pink showing in the meat.
That would be to medium
doneness to be on the safe side. Make sure that all of the meat
juices are running clear and that the inside of the beef is hot.
You should cook whole cuts of beef and pork to at least 145
degrees internal temperature as that is the temperature that
bacteria are killed. Ground meats should be cooked to at least
165 degrees to avoid any problems.
Poultry should be cooked to
165 degrees, and that includes both chicken and turkey. Use these
as a general rule.
When cooking chicken on the pit or grill if you have
multiple racks that stack on top of one another always cook the
chicken on the lowest rack. This will keep the juices on the
uncooked chicken from falling on the meats cooking under the
chicken. These are the little things you just need to watch out
So cook chicken on the bottom rack.
Pork would also be a meat you should watch while cooking and
serving. The FDA recently reduced the internal meat temperature
for safe pork (whole cuts) down to 145 degrees internal
It used to be 165 degrees but forget that now. Again
ground meats regardless of pork, beef, chicken, or whatever you
should cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to be safe.
So just use the same precautions as above for all of the meats
you are cooking and everything will be great and no one will get
that bad stomach ache.
Food left out in the Heat
You can get food poisoning from foods that require refrigeration
that have been left out in the heat to long. The main culprit in
this area seems to be mayonnaise (even though mayo manufacturers
have made huge strides in preservatives that keep it from going
bad as it sets out in the heat) that is used in both potato salad
and in cole slaw.
But there are other foods like boiled eggs that
are sued in many side dishes and also deviled eggs that are
served at many tailgating and home parties. So make sure the
salads are still cold when you eat them. If you suspect they have
gone off temperature then simply don't eat them.
And for meats that are cooked and then left out for serving, it
is best to keep the meat at 140 degrees if it is going to be
sitting out for over 20 minutes.
Once the meat has been sitting
out and the internal temperature of the meat falls below 140
degrees then you can have a problem.
It is best to refrigerate
the meat immediately after you finish eating or better yet as
soon as everyone has helped their plate. But we all know we are
going to wait until everyone has eaten and maybe gone back in for
seconds or thirds.
But as soon as everyone has finished getting
all they want it is time to wrap the meat up and get it cooled
down in the refrigerator or in a cooler.
Here is the simple way to remember the ranges of safety for meats
and side dishes served. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees
or colder. So keep the cold foods you are serving in the
refrigerator or on ice in the cooler until you are ready to serve
And hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or hotter. The
range of temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are the
problem temperatures where bacteria can grow. And in this heat it
is really easy for salads to rise above the 40 degree safe
temperature and it does not take long. So when you are serving
your cold dishes set the serving bowl in a bowl of ice to keep
the temperature in the cold range.
Remember most symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and
diarrhea are due to viral infections and are not true cases of
food poisoning even though we talk about having food poisoning
with these symptoms.
But we know that it is bad foods that could
be causing this whether it is food poisoning or just food that
has gone bad because it has gone off temperature and is just bad.
It is still all the same it is not a good situation so be
careful in this heat of the summer with food going bad cause it
has been left sitting out in a non-refrigerated area.