How to Experience a Food-Safe Fourth of July in the Nations Capitol!

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays because I know I can count on the 5 "F's": Fireworks, family, friends, food, and fun! Being a true Minnesotan, I have become all too accustomed to spending every Fourth of July at the lake - I mean we do have 10,000 of them! This usually involves cruising around on a boat, listening to music, participating in lake sports like tubing or wakeboarding, eating a hot dog (How American, right!?) and reapplying sunblock too many times to count. However, this year's Fourth of July will be extra special because it will be the first time I experience the five "F's" in none other than the Nation's Capital!  Just another one of the many perks to completing a summer internship in the Washington DC area - and I can't wait for this new experience!

It doesn't matter where you celebrate the Fourth of July or what you do to celebrate our Nation's independence - It's the experience of coming together to celebrate something profound that counts. Fireworks, family, friends and fun are a given. When it comes to food - there are 4 core practices that the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) recommends following to keep food safe from harmful bacteria, or in other words, to "fight BAC!" The 4 core food safety practices are clean, separate, cook and chill. And, to ensure nothing gets in the way of you belting out "America the Beautiful" or indulging in a delicious hot dog, here are 4 ways you can prepare and cook food with safety in mind:

Keep it Clean!

  • Wash your hands, towels, cutting boards and dishes with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.
  • To kill bacteria, sanitize food-contact surfaces and cooking utensils with a solution of 1-3 tablespoons of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Separate Foods to Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cut vegetables or salad ingredients first, then raw meat and poultry and never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs or seafood unless the plate has been thoroughly cleaned between uses.

Cook foods to the Proper Temperatures

Thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter; marinate in the refrigerator and use a clean meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service's How Temperatures Affect Foods Fact Sheet provides a nice overview of how to cook, store, and reheat meat. It also demonstrates that cooking meat is not a "one temperature fits all;" it depends on the type of meat being cooked. Minimum safe internal temperatures for specific foods are:

  • Steak: 145 °F
  • Fish: 145 °F
  • Ground Beef (e.g., hamburger): 160 °F
  • Chicken Breasts: 165 °F
  • Pork: 145 °F

Chill by Refrigerating Promptly

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store and never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fresh fruits or veggies sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • View the Fight Bac! "Chill Fact Sheet" for more helpful cooling ideas and tips 

Also, don't forget to use clean dishes and utensils when serving food and never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. When handling leftovers, use small shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator and make sure to eat them as quickly as possible. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out.

View the Be Food Safe with Win Video for a more visual way to learn about food safety!

Click on the following link for more information on the Partnership for Food Safety's How to fight BAC! Campaign. And, more food safety tips and tricks visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services food safety site.

Here we's almost time to celebrate the America's 237th birthday! I hope your holiday is filled with fireworks, family & friends, SAFE food, and last but not least, fun. It is a birthday party after all!

This blog post was written by Nicole Hines, graduate student at University of Massachusetts' Master in Public Health Nutrition program.