Berny Unruh: Be Safe on July 4th

Berny Unruh
Berny Unruh

“Be careful!” How often does a child hear those words on the July 4th holiday?  No one wants the holiday weekend to end with an injury or an illness. While the concerns for fireworks and water safety are founded, the food safety concerns for the backyard barbeque are also very real.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 128,000 people will require hospitalization this year because of foodborne illnesses. With higher temperatures in the summer months, the number of food poisoning cases tend to increase.

Follow these food safety guidelines:

  • Clean: Make sure you clean all surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water.
  • Separate: When grilling, use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat. Also keep ready-to-eat foods (like raw vegetables) separate and in a separate cooler to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer. That’s the only way to know it’s a safe temperature. Just because the inside of the burger “looks” brown, it doesn’t mean that it has reached the proper safe temperature.
  • Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly if not consumed immediately after cooking. Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F), so if you’re away from home, make sure you bring a cooler to store those leftovers.

Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened quite so often. Keep the cooler in the shade and cover it with a blanket to keep it cool.

Follow these recommended internal temperatures.

  • Beef, pork, veal and lamb (roast, steaks and chops) should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three minute “rest time” after removal from the heat source.
  • For ground meats, like burgers or sausage, cook them to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook eggs and egg dishes to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Poultry, such as chicken wings, breast and thighs should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

When in doubt, throw it out! Have a safe July 4th holiday.

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at