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Summer parties mean lots of cooking, so cook safely


Last updated 8/24/2019 at 3:29pm

Summers mean celebrations, get-togethers with families and friends, barbecues and lots and lots of cooking.

And nobody wants a bellyache, or worse, a foodborne illness, because bacteria like salmonella, listeria or E. coli crashed their party.

So, here are five helpful tips from the San Diego County's Department of Environmental Health to help residents keep their celebration delicious and safe: plan ahead, clean, separate and chill.

Plan ahead

Before the cooking starts, decide how much food can safely be served. For example, figure out how much cooking and refrigerated space there is. Don't let meats and perishables, like that family recipe egg salad, sit out – either on the counter at room temperature or outside in the heat – where bacteria can grow quickly. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

When defrosting meat, fish or poultry, set aside enough time to safely defrost them slowly in the refrigerator. Defrosting in the open air or in still water spurs bacterial growth.

Have a meat thermometer ready and use it.

Always buy food from a safe source, such as a market or restaurant.


Don't let bacteria into the meal. Have people wash their hands before and after handling food or when switching tasks or food types.

Thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables.

Wash and sanitize counters, food prep areas, cutting boards and all equipment used before and after preparing the different parts of the meal.


Keep fruits and vegetables separated from raw meat products.

When defrosting meats and poultry, put them on a plate or pan at the bottom of the refrigerator to safely thaw so that they don't drip on other food.

Use separate cutting boards for meat and produce such as fruits and vegetables. If that isn't possible, cut the produce before cutting meats and make sure to thoroughly wash the cutting board between uses with hot, soapy water.


When cooking meat, always use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked inside and out. It can be especially important when barbecuing because meat and poultry brown fast on a grill and look like they're thoroughly cooked before they're actually cooked properly on the inside. Ground meat and sausages, poultry, beef, pork and ham roasts all require different safe cooking temperatures.

Based on federal food code regulations designed to ensure that food is cooked enough to kill any bacteria present, ground beef and sausages should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F; poultry to 165 F and beef, pork and ham roasts to 145 F and allowed to rest for three minutes to continue cooking inside. For more comprehensive internal cooking guides from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, visit or


Keep cold foods cold – keep meat and poultry refrigerated until it's time to cook. When barbecuing, keep it refrigerated until it's time to put it on the grill. When using a cooler, don't place it in direct sunlight; keep it in the shade. Open the cooler only when necessary, because doing so lets the cold air out and the warm air in. Put beverages in one cooler and meats, poultry and other perishables in another.

For more information and food safety tips, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service's Food Safety Education webpage or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854.


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