WASHINGTON D.C. (NBC News) -The United States Department of Agriculture’s food safety department is reminding those grilling for the Fourth of July to keep safety in mind – not just with cooking food but with COVID-19 still rampant.
“We don’t want to have a time that’s one of celebration turn into one of hospitalization and sickness,” USDA Undersecretary Mindy Brashers said.
The department has recommended a four-step process to those using the grill – clean, separate, cook and chill.
“Those cooking or eating should wash their hands regularly,” Brashers said. “Uncooked meat should be kept separate from other food. Meat should also be cooked to the proper temperature. Those temperatures are important. We usually think, ‘Is it done? Is it palatable?’ but this is for food safety so we want to make sure we cook it properly.”
With the COVID-19 outbreak still a threat, Dr. Frank Esper of Cleveland Clinic Children’s said keeping food and people separate is a key to safety.
“I would say to not do buffet style.” Esper said.
Esper recommended individually plating food to avoid potential COVID-19 spread. He said this important for foods that require a lot of touching, like chips and dips.
Eating outside is also safer than eating outside, so if the weather cooperates, if you’re having a gathering, try the porch or patio instead of the dining room. Despite this, people should still use social distancing.
The USDA recommends refrigerating leftovers no longer than an after if they’re left outside, or two hours if they are inside.