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Memorial Day: Tips for keeping food and yourself safe

Posted at 12:29 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 13:29:48-04

Summer is right around the corner. A big indication of this transition into a new season is the beloved holiday, Memorial Day.

Many Oklahomans will celebrate Memorial Day by packing up the car, heading to the lake and firing up the grill.

Memorial Day will look different this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That's why the Tulsa Health Department (THD) put together some tips to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and foodborne illnesses over the holiday weekend.

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. 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.
DeBrena Hilton, Food Protection Services Manager

SEE MORE: Tulsa Health Department information on food safety

Hilton outlines the four food safety principals below:

When is comes to cleaning, THD said to start with a clean slate. Wash all preparation areas with hot soapy water.

Raw meat, as well as the juice from raw meat, can contain bad and harmful bacteria. To prevent cross-contamination, Hilton suggests keeping raw meats and poultry separate from vegetables and cooked foods. Use different cutting boards and knives to prepare meats and vegetables.

The food thermometer is the most important food safety tool in your grilling toolbox, Hilton said. Foodbourne bacteria is killed by proper cooking temperatures. Color is not a reliable indicator that a food has been prepared correctly. A food thermometer accurately provides a reading of internal temperatures when placed in the thickest part of the meat.

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures include:

  • Hot dogs—165 °F or until steaming hot
  • Poultry—165 °F
  • 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)
  • Fish—145 °F

Memorial Day does mean relaxation but that's not the "chill" THD is talking about.
Bacteria grows rapidly between 40 degrees fahrenheit and 135 degrees fahrenheit. Meaning, any food that is left out for a long length of time after being prepared will grow bacteria. To keep bacterial growth at bay, keep the hot food hot on the grill, and the cold food cold in a cooler or ice bath.

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.
Tulsa Health Department

In regards to COVID-19, keeping a space of six feet between people is important and the best way to prevent the spreading of coronavirus. Wearing a cloth face covering and having hand sanitizer, ease of access to trash cans and cleaners are important when being around guests.

Always start with clean hands. It may get repetitive, but clean hands are the first step to preparing a safe and healthy meal and preventing the spread of illness.
DeBrena Hilton, Food Protection Services Manager

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