Independence Day Should be “Free” of Food-Borne Illness
June 29, 2012

Nothing says “Happy 4th of July” like an outdoor barbeque or picnic with friends and family.   With summer holiday celebrations comes warm temperatures which encourage the growth of bacteria on food. This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is encouraging Americans to follow four easy food handling practices to declare “independence” from food-borne illness during your outdoor celebrations.

The four simple steps include to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Clean- Hands should be washed with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Equally important is making sure that the surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked foods are clean before you start and are washed frequently.

Separate- Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from vegetables and cooked foods. As you chop meats and veggies, be sure to use separate cutting boards and utensils. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw veggies and already cooked foods.

Cook- Be sure to use your food thermometer to be certain the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature that will kill any harmful bacteria (see for the minimum internal temperature for certain meats).

Chill- Keeping food at a safe temperature can be a concern at outdoor picnics and cookouts. Too often, food is prepared and left to sit out while guests munch over the course of several hours. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F, so perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 °F—which is common in the summer—food should not sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly and discard any food that has been sitting out too long.

It is important to remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods can be kept hot on the grill and cold foods can be kept chilled with ice packs or ice in a cooler.

Got questions?? Visit to find fact sheets, videos and podcasts about safe food handling and preparation during the summer months.

Have a safe, wonderful 4th of July!