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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This 4th of July: Before You Grill Know The Drill

USDA Offers Familiar Grilling Advice For This 4th of July

The Fourth of July is nearly upon us, and many Americans will celebrate our Nation's birthday by grilling or attending cookouts. USDA is reminding consumers that following safe food handling steps are the key to making your cookout safe and healthy for your guests.

"Barbecuing is a great way to celebrate Independence Day, and it's important to take a few seconds to measure your food temperature to help protect your family and friends this summer," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Make a food thermometer your most important grilling tool."

USDA has four basic steps to help you Be Food Safe and declare independence from foodborne illness any time of year:

1. Clean: First things first – start with clean surfaces and clean hands. You and your guests should wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Equally important are the surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked foods – make sure they are clean before you start and are washed frequently.

2. Separate: Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from produce and cooked foods. Use separate cutting boards when chopping raw meats and produce, as juices from raw meats may contain harmful bacteria that can cross-contaminate ready-to-eat foods.

3. Cook: Your food thermometer is the most important tool that will tell you if your food is thoroughly cooked, as color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. The safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria in steaks, roasts, chops and fish is 145°F, while ground beef should reach 160°F. Take extra care with frozen hamburgers as these take longer to reach a safe internal temperature throughout the patties. It is important to measure the temperature in several areas of your burgers. All poultry and fully cooked meats like hot dogs should be grilled to 165°F or until steaming hot.

4. Chill: Perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90°F – which is common at summer picnics – perishable foods shouldn't sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly, and discard any food that has been out too long.

Additionally, throughout the week, USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will offer important information about how to prevent foodborne illness at 4th of July events - and throughout the year – using a variety of tools that are sure to reach all audiences:

The FSIS Twitter feed will count down to the Fourth of July with a daily tip tailored to the holiday. Check the feed everyday at 12:00 p.m. EDT through July 5 to find the daily tip.

On Wednesday, June 30, FSIS will release a new podcast in English and Spanish on summer grilling. Access the podcasts available here.

On Thursday, July 1, FSIS will release a Video News Release on summer grilling that includes a demonstration of how to properly check if your burgers are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Access the video news release at, or on FSIS' YouTube channel.

On Thursday, July 1 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, FSIS' Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager Diane Van will host a live chat on Facebook, answering consumer and media summer food safety questions. Go to to ask Diane any food safety questions you have before serving your Fourth of July guests. Or, visit the Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Ask the FSIS virtual representative "Ask Karen", your food safety questions, available 24 hours a day at You can also "Chat live" with Karen between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm EDT, Monday through Friday.

The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Podcasts and SignFSIS video-casts in American Sign Language featuring text-captioning are available online at

Throughout the week, FSIS' website will feature a special emphasis page for summertime food safety. It will feature links to all of FSIS's resources regarding shopping, preparing, cooking, and storing food for gatherings in the summer heat. You can access the page at

America Celebrates The Fourth of July To Air July 2nd!

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