Source: Asbury Park Press
It’s summer, which means time to fire up the grill. It also means time for food poisoning and salmonella if you’re careless about barbecuing.
“When it’s warm, it’s an incubator for germs,” says Barbara Mintz,vice president of Healthy Living and Community Wellness for RWJ Barnabas Health. She and Dr. Nancy Peters, a family medicine practitioner with CentraState Healthcare, offer these food safety tips.
“Thoroughly wash all your produce. That’s very important,” Peters says. “Studies have shown if you wash produce and dry it with a paper towel, you get more bacteria off than if you let it air dry. People don’t think of it, but probably a third of all food poisonings are caused by produce.”
That includes items that would seem to be squeaky clean. “Even a prepackaged bag of lettuce, which is very popular right now, should be washed,” Mintz says. “Even if it says ‘pre-washed,’ I would wash it anyway.
“You don’t want vegetables on the same cutting board as chicken you’re about to throw on the grill, and don’t use the same knife,” Mintz continues. “If you do have to use the same cutting board or knife, make sure they’re thoroughly cleaned with hot water and soap.” And yes, you should clean your grill regularly with a wire brush. “Make sure you scrub everything off, even though it’s charred and burned,” she adds.
“In general what we say is hot food should be kept hot, cold food should be kept cold,” Peters says. “The main problem with food poisoning is when food is kept at room temperature for too long. In general, food should not be kept out more than two hours.”
Some folks like their beef and burgers cooked rare. How risky is that? Mintz says that “if it’s pink and not red and bloody inside, you’re probably safe.”
However, undercooked meats can pose danger “if you’re someone whose immune system is not functioning properly — very young children, elderly people, people receiving chemotherapy or chronic steroids — you are at an increased risk of getting sick,” says Peters. “They need to be extra vigilant.”
If you do contract food poisoning, which is commonly characterized by intense vomiting and diarrhea over a short period of time, the best thing you can do is drink water.
“With the vast majority of people, as long as they stay well-hydrated, they’ll get through it on their own,” Peters says. “If you can’t keep anything down, if you have diarrhea lasting longer than three days or you have blood in stools, seek medical help.”