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Food safety tips to keep you safe this 4th of July

ALPENA, Mich. – As millions of Americans head to picnics and fire up the grill this 4thof July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture want to remind you how to keep everyone safe while cooking.

The CDC says food borne illness results in roughly 48 million people getting sick annually in the U.S.

Unfortunately, food borne illness cases tent to increase during the summer months.

One expert said there are four steps to food safety.

“The 4 steps to food safety are : clean, separate, cook and chill,” said Safety Expert Karen Hunter.” When we talk about clean, we’re talking about making sure hands and surfaces are clean so be sure especially of you are cooking out that have hand sanitizer on hand or water that you can use to clean your hands and utensils as you’re working your way through the cooking process.”

Here are some tips from the USDA:

Clean: If you’re grilling and eating outdoors, find out if there is a source of clean water. If not, bring water for food preparation and cleaning, or pack clean cloths, alcohol-based moist towelettes and hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate: Keep raw meats separate from other foods, like fruits and vegetables, to prevent cross-contamination.

Cook: Confirm foods are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature by always using a food thermometer.

Chill: Ensure your cooler is fully stocked with ice or frozen gel packs to help keep perishable foods cold. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler. Bacteria grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone” between 40 F and 140 F. Don’t leave food out for longer than two hours, or one hour if it’s over 90 F outside. When serving food, it is important to remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

 Common grilling questions such as:

  • Is color a reliable indicator of safety and doneness?
  • What should I do about frozen products that are pre-cooked or pre-browned? What do phrases like “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook” and “Oven Ready” mean?
  • How should I handle mechanically tenderized meats that have marinades added?
  • When and how should I use a food thermometer? To what temperatures should I cook burgers and hot dogs?
  • What is the Danger Zone and how do I avoid it?
  • What do I need to keep things clean before, during and after food preparation?
  • Where can I go for more information on food safety?

For any summer food safety questions, Americans are encouraged to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.