Published on May 21, 2018

Tips to Avoid Foodborne Illness with Warmer Weather and Backyard Barbeques

Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician at Essentia Health

With the warmer weather you may have already started grilling outdoors. Between grilling at home, picnics, family reunions and other outdoor events involving food it’s important to keep food safety in mind.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness, which is about 1 out of every 6 Americans. There are also 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths that can be traced to foodborne illness. Foodborne illness costs Americans billions of dollars each year.

Eliminating foodborne illness can be challenging as bacteria may survive despite aggressive controls at the processing level and may become contaminated anywhere along the way during transport, retail, preparation, cooking, serving and storage.

Teaching everyone about safe food handling practices should be a priority.

The number one rule of summer food safety is that hot foods need to stay hot and cold foods need to stay cold.

Below are four core practices to food safety.

  1. CLEAN

    Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.
                *wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
                *wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item
                *consider using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If you use dish cloths wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
                *rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten


                Cross contamination is how bacteria can be spread. Improper handling of raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can create an inviting environment for cross-contamination. As a result, harmful bacteria can spread to food and throughout the kitchen.
                *separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
                *use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
                *never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs

  3. COOK

                Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that causes foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.
                *cook steaks and roasts to a minimum of 145 degrees, poultry 165 degrees and ground beef/meat to at least 160 degrees. Check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat/poultry. Remember color is not a reliable indicator of doneness, use a food thermometer.
                *undercooked eggs are one of the most commonly eaten risky foods. This includes eggs served sunny-side up or “over-easy” as well as raw eggs used in preparation of hollandaise sauce, meringue, Caesar salad dressing and the like. If you must use this type of eggs it’s suggested that you buy pasteurized eggs, which have been briefly heated to destroy bacteria.

  4. CHILL

                Refrigerate foods quickly, because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Don’t overstuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temp of 40 degrees or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The freezer temp should be 0 degrees or below.
                *refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store
                *never defrost food at room temp. food must be kept at a safe temp during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
                *always marinate food in the refrigerator
                *divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooking in the refrigerator
                *perishable food should never be left out longer than 2 hours without refrigeration and even less time as the temperature gets higher

More information on food safety can be found at

Honey Chicken Kabobs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ tsp ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium zucchini squash, cut into 1-inch pieces

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together oil, honey, soy sauce, and black pepper. Reserve a small amount of marinade to brush on the kabobs while cooking. Place the chicken, garlic, onions, zucchini and peppers in the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (the longer the better).
2.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
3.  Drain marinade from the chicken and vegetables and discard. Thread chicken and vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
4.  Lightly oil the grill grate. Place the skewers on the grill. Cook for 12-15 minutes, turning the skewers and brushing with reserved marinade frequently. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees.

Serves: 4

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