TULSA, OK – [May 19, 2020] – With the first summer holiday weekend coming up and restrictions slowly lifting, many Tulsans are anxious to celebrate with cookouts, road trips and other events that involve food and gatherings. The Tulsa Health Department (THD) wants to remind the community on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during these Memorial Day activities as well as prevent foodborne illness before you light up the grill or pack up the car.
“Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer because not only does bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures, but preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more challenging,” said DeBrena Hilton, food protection services manager. “We want everyone to enjoy the holiday and stay safe. So when preparing for Memorial Day weekend outdoor cookouts, remember these four food safety principles to prevent foodborne illnesses.”
Begin your cookout with a clean slate. Wash preparation surface areas with hot soapy water, especially after contact with raw foods. Wash your hands with soap under warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Have family or friends who are helping prepare food wash their hands as well.
Raw meat, and juice from raw meat, can contain harmful bacteria. To prevent cross-contamination, keep all raw meats and poultry separate from vegetables and cooked foods. Use different cutting boards and knives to prepare meats and vegetables.
When you put on your apron and fire up the grill, do not forget your most important weapon in your food safety toolbox—the food thermometer. Proper cooking temperatures kill foodborne bacteria. Despite what many people believe, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown quickly and may appear done on the outside, but still may not have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. The food thermometer provides an accurate reading of internal temperature. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to take a temperature reading.
Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures include: Hot dogs—165 °F or until steaming hot
Ground beef and other ground meat—155 °F
Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal and beef—145 °F (followed by a three-minute rest time)
The last challenge of any outdoor event is keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. 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 135 °F. To keep bacterial growth at bay, keep hot food on the grill and place cold food in a cooler or ice bath. Never let perishable food sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 °F, 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.
In addition to everyday steps to prevent spread of illness, keeping six feet of space between you and others is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to wear a cloth face covering when around those who reside outside your home.
If hosting a small gathering, ensure that hand sanitizer, tissues, trash baskets, disposable facemasks and cleaners and disinfectants are available to guests. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects with detergent and water prior to disinfection, especially surfaces that are visibly dirty. It’s important to clean and disinfect these frequently touched services regularly throughout the day. Reminds guests that if they are feeling under the weather to stay home.
Public health experts also reminds everyone to wash their hands correctly before, during and after preparing food. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and allow your hands to air dry before eating or handling food.
“Always start with clean hands,” added Hilton. “It may get repetitive, but clean hands are the first step to preparing a safe and healthy meal and preventing the spread of illness.”
THD works to safeguard public health through education on safe food handling practices and the regulation of food service establishments. THD performs more than 12,000 inspections of approximately 4,500 food service establishments annually. In addition, approximately 500 food safety training classes are conducted each year to educate restaurant employees and other food employees on food safety.
For more information or concerns about food safety, call 918-595-4300.
# # #