Protecting your family from foodborne illnesses this Fourth of July weekend

Warm temps create perfect breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Gathering with family and friends for a barbecue or picnic is a Fourth of July holiday tradition, but the warm summer temperatures create the perfect breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria.

Kelsey-Seybold dietitian Ronda Elsenbrook explains.

"Anytime you're preparing foods away from home, you want to make sure you still have the things that you would have in a normal kitchen and bring them to the outdoors to keep foods safe," said Elsenbrook. "Hot foods hot. Cold foods cold."

Elsenbrook said the biggest concern is cross-contamination.

For example, she explained, "You take a platter of raw meat over to the grill and when you cook the meat, putting it back on to that same platter will get the bacteria from the raw meat onto the cooked meat."

To prevent foodborne illnesses, never reuse plates or utensils used to carry raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Try labeling your cutting boards to prevent the spread of raw juices and avoid wooden cutting boards.

"It's hard to get them thoroughly cleaned, and the bacteria can get in there and live and breathe," said Elsenbrook.

Use food thermometers to make sure everything's cooked properly.

When laying out foods, try icing all those daily and mayonnaise-based dips and sides. Also, don't keep cooked meats out for more than an hour.

"Anything between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is dangerous. That's where bacteria thrive," Elsenbrook said.

Finally, improper handling of food is a common cause of foodborne illnesses.

If you're in an area without running water, bring along a water jug, soap and paper towels, and even disposable antibacterial towelettes can be helpful.

Click for more tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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