Healthwatch: July 4th Food Safety Tips

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Grilling and celebrating the Fourth of July just seem to go together.

But before you fire up the grill keep this in mind, health experts say they see more cases of food poisoning over the summer.

“Because of hot, humid temperatures and because folks are often away from the kitchen at picnics and cookouts, food-borne illness may actually increase,” said Chris Bernstein with the USDA.

Harmful bacteria can actually multiply more quickly when it’s hot outside. The USDA says to stay safe, clean your hands before prepping food, keep raw food separate from cooked food, cook everything to a safe internal temperature and chill food promptly and properly.

Whether you’re grilling in the backyard or barbecuing in a professional smoker, experts say a food thermometer is the best way to make sure everything is cooked thoroughly. Yet only a third of Americans use one.

“You actually can’t tell by looking at it if it’s reached a safe internal temperature,” said Berstein. “And that magic number is really the only way to be sure that you’ve killed any bacteria that might be present.”

The USDA says that anything perishable should usually not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. But in temps over 90-degrees, nothing should be left out for more than an hour.

And don’t rely on the sniff test to check if something is good because experts say odor alone is not a reliable indicator if a food will make you sick. Foodborne illness, like salmonella and E-coli, is caused by bacteria that doesn’t have any smell to it.

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