MIAMI (CBSMiami) – With many of us spending more time outdoors to maintain social distancing during the pandemic, health experts are reminding everyone about the importance of food safety if you’re picnicking or barbecuing.

The CDC estimates 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses every year and 3,000 people die.

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Health officials caution foodborne illnesses spike this time of year, in part because of the hotter temperatures.

Dr. Mindy Brashears oversees food safety at the US Department of Agriculture.

“There’s bacteria in the food. And even if you cook it, we have what we call spore forming bacteria, and so it survives the heat and these can start growing,” she said. “And so at a higher temperature, the bacteria grow much faster, so your risk increases.”

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Brashears says keep food cold until you are ready to cook them and use a food thermometer to make sure meats are cooked to the right internal temperature.

According to the USDA, safe minimum internal temperatures are:

  • Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb (steaks, chops, roasts) – 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
  • Ground Meats – 160 °F
  • All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing) – 165 °F
  • Fish & Shellfish – 145 °F

“Don’t rely on color. Color is a poor indicator. So use that thermometer, make sure it’s cooked, and then put it on a clean surface, a clean plate or other cutting board or something before you bring it in to serve,” said Brashears.

And once you are done eating, get everything back into the fridge quickly.

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“If you’re outside and it’s like 90 degrees, the bacteria grow even faster. So we say get it back inside within an hour,” said Brashears.