Editorial

Grilling requires special summer food safety steps

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So you've just finished grilling that $5 sirloin steak to perfection when it slips off the barbecue fork and flops onto the deck of the patio.

Does the five-second rule apply? Should you slap that hunk of meat back on the grill and convert it from medium rare to medium, just to be safe?

What if it was just a 10-cent hotdog -- does the dog have first dibs?

In case you missed it, Dr. Michael Huckabee -- no, not that Mike Huckabee, he's a professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center physician assistant program -- had an interesting discussion of the issue on Wednesday's To Your Health page in the Gazette.

A 2007 study debunked the five-second rule, finding that 99 percent of bacteria like salmonella were transferred to pieces of bologna nearly immediately when they hit the floor. As few as 10 salmonella bacteria can cause gastroenteritis, doctors warned.

But we all know that kids put all sorts of things in their mouths, and there is evidence being too clean increases the incidence of hay fever, eczema, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes, Huckabee said.

In fact, he said, kids whose moms wash off a dropped pacifier in their mouths and give it back to their child actually are less likely to get eczema and asthma later in life.

But back to that sirloin -- summertime barbecue presents special risks and we shouldn't take the "too-clean" hypothesis too far.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service offers some guidelines to keep your outdoor cooking activities safe:

* Buy raw meat and poultry last, separate it from other foods to avoid cross-contamination and get it into refrgeration as quickly as possible -- always within two hours, or one if the temperature is above 90 degrees. Freeze poultry or ground meat if it won't be used in a couple of days; other meat within four to five days.

* Completely thaw meat so it cooks more evenly, or defrost in the microwave if it will go immediately on the grill.

* Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter, and boil any marinade used on raw meat or poultry if you plan to reuse it.

* Use a cooler to keep food at 40 F or below over long distances, and keep food cold until you're ready to place it on the grill.

* Keep utensils and platters clean, and don't use the same platter for raw and cooked meat and poultry. If you're away from home, make sure there's a source of clean water.

* Precook in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time.

* Use a meat thermometer to make sure food is safe -- 165 for poultry, 160 for ground meats, and 145 for beef, pork, lamb and veal; allow meat to rest at least three minutes.

* Reheat meat to 165 or steaming hot.

* Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

* Avoid charring meat to reduce cancer risk. Trim fat that is likely to flare up.

For more food safety tips, visit http://1.usa.gov/16MCA7z

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